Minnesota: Don’t let the beep steal your sleep

Crookston Times

    From Ada to Zumbrota, Minnesotans have been protected for years, thanks to carbon monoxide (CO) protection measures first put in place statewide in 2007. That year, Minnesota required CO alarms to be installed in all newly constructed single-family homes and multi-family dwelling units. Over the years, the law expanded to include existing single-family homes and multi-family dwellings. Since then, countless lives have been saved from the dangers of this invisible, odorless and potentially fatal gas, as a majority of states have followed suit with similar legislation and code adoption.

    However, alarms don’t last forever, and 14 years after Minnesota’s first CO alarm requirements were enacted, First Alert, the most trusted brand in fire safety*, along with health and safety officials, have issued a timely reminder to the public: the need to replace CO alarms as they approach expiration.

    As part of its ongoing education efforts, First Alert is partnering with fire departments and safety organizations throughout the country to bring awareness to the importance of replacing alarms as they expire.

    “These CO alarm requirements marked a turning point for protection for Minnesota’s residents, but with busy lives and other priorities, it’s easy to take life-saving measures like installing carbon monoxide alarms for granted once they’ve been implemented,” said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing for First Alert, a leader in residential fire and CO detection devices. “It’s important to remember that CO can be produced by any fuel-burning device, and with people staying home more, this anniversary underscores the importance of replacing expiring alarms, as that is the only way to detect this poisonous gas and provide early warning.”

    Known as the “silent killer,” CO is a colorless and odorless gas that is impossible to detect without a sensing device. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50,000 emergency department visits and approximately 450 deaths are attributed to accidental CO poisoning in the U.S. each year, making it the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the country. CO can be produced by any fuel-burning device, including heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances and cooking sources using coal, wood or petroleum products. It’s critical to have appliances inspected by certified licensed technicians, educate loved ones on the dangers of CO and develop a family escape plan in the event of a CO emergency.

    CO poisoning can cause symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, chest pain and vomiting that mimic those of many other illnesses, making it difficult to diagnose. In severe poisoning cases, victims can experience disorientation, unconsciousness, long-term neurological disabilities, cardiorespiratory failure or death.

    While alarm lifespans may vary by model and manufacturer, back in 2007 and again in 2014, a properly maintained CO alarm had a lifespan of approximately five to seven years. Therefore, CO alarms installed when Minnesota enacted these requirements are likely now due for a second replacement. As an extra safety measure, most First Alert CO alarms feature end-of-life warning to alert residents to the need for replacement. The end-of-life signal differs significantly from the 85-decibel horn heard in an emergency or during regular testing of the alarm. It also differs from the low-battery chirp, and usually consists of 3-5 short sounds. Check the back of the alarm, as well as the alarm’s user manual, for specific information on these different signals.

    “If you can’t think of the last time you installed a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm, chances are, it’s time to replace your old ones,” Wey said. “Installing new alarms, testing them regularly and having and practicing an escape plan are important measures you can take to help protect your family and home. First Alert offers the most advanced CO sensing technologies and latest safety features available, in hardwired, wall mount, plug-in and tabletop versions.”

    The last few years have seen significant advancements in technology, extending the lifespans of some CO alarms to 10 years. First Alert offers 10-year sealed battery CO alarms that eliminate the need for battery replacements. First Alert’s extensive safety portfolio also includes other CO alarm models to meet the needs of any household, including the 10-Year Sealed Battery Tabletop Alarm with Temperature Display, 2-in-1 10-Year Sealed Battery Combination Alarms for both smoke and CO protection, as well as plug-in CO alarms with battery backup.

Important Safety Steps

    In addition to replacing CO alarms as they reach expiration, First Alert recommends the following tips and tools for keeping yourself and loved ones safer from the dangers of carbon monoxide:

    Install alarms. CO alarms are the only way to detect this poisonous gas. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends installing alarms on every level of the home and near each sleeping area for maximum protection. Also, make sure the alarms are installed at least 15 feet away from sources of CO to reduce the possibility of nuisance alarms.

    Test alarms regularly. It is also important to test alarms monthly and change batteries every six months, unless the alarm is powered by a sealed, 10-year battery. All First Alert alarms are equipped with a test/silence button for easy testing. CO alarms don’t last forever and have a life span between five and seven years (unless you have 10-year alarm), so remember to check the date on the back of each alarm.

    Never use generators indoors. In the case of a power outage, portable electric generators must be used outside only (at least 15 feet from your home). Never use them inside the home, in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect. And, be careful to follow operating instructions closely. Also, refrain from using charcoal grills, camp stoves and other similar devices indoors.

    Be mindful of the garage. CO is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars, so never leave a vehicle running inside an attached garage. Even if the door is open, it is hazardous, as CO can leak into the home.

    Have fuel-burning appliances inspected regularly. Arrange for a professional inspection of all fuel-burning appliances (such as furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers and water heaters) annually.

    Plan Your Escape. To develop an effective escape plan, walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Identify two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Practice your home emergency escape plan at least twice a year and make sure to plan a meeting spot. That way, if there is an emergency, everyone knows where to meet.

    Call 911. If an alarm sounds, leave the home immediately and move to fresh air. Then call 911 and do not go back into the home until the home is inspected and cleared.

    For more information on carbon monoxide safety, visit www.firstalert.com. [http://]

    For more information about carbon monoxide legislation by state, visit https://www.firstalert.com/carbon-monoxide-legislation.html.