News & Events

Carbon monoxide detectors save lives

November 2, 2011

We’ve all seen the deadly impact of carbon monoxide poisoning in the news recently.

Fred Potter, Coordinator of Emergency Medical Services at Backus Hospital, has unfortunately seen the devastation firsthand.

A paramedic since 1983, Mr. Potter was dispatched to an address in Suffield for a carbon monoxide exposure when he was a fire captain/paramedic at the Bradley International Airport Fire Department in Windsor Locks, on the morning on Nov. 11, 1993 — Veteran’s Day, to be exact.

When they arrived there were a total of seven people poisoned by carbon monoxide overnight while they slept. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas, which is one of the reasons that it is so deadly.

“Despite vigorous attempts to resuscitate them, they did die, as did their family dogs,” Mr. Potter recalls. “It’s a scene that I’ll never forget, and one that I can easily visualize 17 years later.”

Carbon monoxide has a 200 times higher affinity than oxygen to attach to your red blood cells. Therefore the carbon monoxide saturates the red blood cells leaving no room for oxygen.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, which are very similar to flu symptoms, are usually caused by heaters, furnaces, gas grills and other devices indoors. They usually involve more than one person and can include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should get outdoors for fresh air and call 911.

Meters to accurately measure the amount of carbon monoxide inside a home are carried by all fire departments, whose members are also trained how and where to obtain samples.

But many times that is too late, which makes it so important for everyone to install carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of their home, especially near sleeping areas, Mr. Potter added.