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  • Citizen Safety
    May 15, 2013

    What Is Carbon Monoxide?


    Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is generated through incomplete combustion of fuel such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, and charcoal, gasoline or wood.

    This incomplete combustion can occur in a variety of home appliances. The major cause of high levels of carbon monoxide in the home is faulty ventilation of furnaces, hot water heaters, fireplaces, cooking stoves, grills and kerosene heaters.  Other common sources are car exhausts, and gas or diesel powered portable machines.

    Faulty or improper ventilation of natural gas and fuel oil furnaces during the cold winter months accounts for most carbon monoxide poisoning cases.  Correct operation of any fuel burning equipment requires two key conditions.

    There must be:
    * an adequate supply of air for complete combustion.
    * Proper ventilation of fuel burning appliances through the chimney vents or duct to the outside.

    How Carbon Monoxide Affects the Body

    Hundreds of people die each year, and thousands more require medical treatment, because of carbon monoxide poisoning in their home. The human body depends on oxygen for the burning of fuel (food) to provide the energy that allows cells to live and function. Oxygen makes up approximately 21% of the atmosphere, and enters the lungs during breathing. In the lungs it combines with a blood component called hemoglobin. When saturated with oxygen, it is called oxyhemoglobin.

    After being carried by the bloodstream to the cells of the body, oxyhemoglobin releases oxygen to the body tissues. Carbon monoxide is dangerous because it bonds much more tightly to the hemoglobin than does oxygen. Once hemoglobin combines with carbon monoxide to form carboxyhemoglobin, its ability to combine with oxygen is completely lost.

    As more carboxyhemoglobin is formed, the amount of oxygen carried to the cells and organs in the body decreases. Carbon monoxide starves the blood of oxygen, literally causing the body to suffocate from the inside out. When the carboxyhemoglobin concentration reaches a certain level, people get nauseous, become unconscious, and ultimately die. How quickly symptoms appear depends upon the concentration, or parts per million (ppm) of carbon monoxide in the air and the duration of exposure. A person's size, age and general health are also factors in how quickly effects of the gas will become evident.

    Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

    Carbon monoxide poisoning is often confused with the flu. Children with carbon monoxide poisoning have mistakenly been treated for indigestion.  It is important that you discuss with all family members the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Different carbon monoxide concentrations and exposure times cause different symptoms.

    EXTREME EXPOSURE: Unconsciousness, convulsions, cardio respiratory failure, and death

    MEDIUM EXPOSURE: Severe throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, vomiting, and fast heart rate

    MILD EXPOSURE: Slight headache, nausea, fatigue (often described as 'flu-like' symptoms)

    For most people, mild symptoms generally will be felt after several hours of exposure of 100 ppm's of carbon monoxide.

    Many reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning indicate that while victims are aware they are not well, they become so disoriented that they are unable to save themselves by either exiting the building or calling for assistance.  Infants and children are especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide due to their high metabolic rates. Because children use more oxygen faster than adults do, deadly carbon monoxide gas accumulates in their bodies faster and can interfere with oxygen supply to vital organs such as the brain and the heart.  If left unchecked, a child's exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to neurological disorders, memory loss, personality changes and mild to severe forms of brain damage.

    Different Types of Carbon Monoxide Detectors

    As with smoke detectors, consumers should avoid any brand that does not bear the mark of Underwriters Laboratories Inc. and/or Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada. You should consider ease of installation, the location of installation and the power source of an alarm when choosing a plug-in, battery powered or hardwire model. Battery Backup-some plug-in carbon monoxide alarm models have a back-up power source that allows the unit to function in the event of a main line power failure. During a power outage, people are likely to use alternate sources of power, light and heat (e.g. kerosene heaters, gas-powered portable generators and fireplaces) which may be out of tune and may produce deadly carbon monoxide gas.

    There are three main types of technology utilized in carbon monoxide detectors today: Chem-optical, Electrochemical, and Semiconductor.

    Chem-optical technology alarms are also known as gel cell or biomimetic technology alarms. These alarms utilize a type of sensor that mimics the response of hemoglobin, in the blood, to carbon monoxide. Alarms using this kind of sensor are usually battery powered. One main drawback that remains is that the sensor can non-reversibly accumulate carbon monoxide and other contaminants over time, which can eventually lead to false and/or nuisance alarms. Some chem-optical (gel cell) alarms on the market today contain an expensive replacement battery and/or sensor, which must be replaced periodically.

    Electrochemical technology alarms are usually battery powered and are much more complex than semiconductor. Platinum, as a catalyst, and acid, as an electrolyte, break down carbon monoxide gas and release electrons, which induce a small current and activate the alarm. This type of sensor is very accurate in its initial calibrated state, but is susceptible to contamination and swaying from its original set point over time and exposure. The technology is very expensive to manufacture and will typically have a limited lifetime of about 2-5 years. Some manufacturers' models will require its battery and/or sensor to be changed periodically. Other manufacturers' models have sealed housing that requires the entire unit to be discarded once the battery power supply is depleted.

    Semiconductor sensors are mechanically simple and are electronic in nature; therefore they have a long life (typically 10 years) and are very reliable. Current designs demonstrate excellent immunity to other gases that may be present. Semiconductor sensors utilize a controlled quantity of tin dioxide as a sensing element. The sensing material is heated by a small electric heating element and carbon monoxide gas is catalytically broken down at the surface of the sensing element. Electrons are released in this process and are absorbed by the sensing element. This increase in charged particles lowers the resistance of the sensor. In an alarm using semiconductor sensors, electronics are used to measure the sensor resistance and from this to calculate the carbon monoxide concentration.

    What To Do In The Event Of An Alarm

    You should consult their owner's manual for a carbon monoxide alarm procedure. However, the following is a general procedure:

    If a carbon monoxide alarm sounds a low level warning or hazard level alarm, you should leave your home immediately and call their local emergency service or 911 for help. The Fire Service has the proper protective equipment and gas meters to properly verify the alarm.  A head count should be taken to check that all persons are accounted for once outside in the fresh air. You should not re-enter the home until it has been checked by the Fire Service and aired out.  Once the source of the problem has been identified the appliance in question should be turned off and not used until the problem has been corrected by a qualified technician or utility company.

    Where To Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors

    Since oxygen and carbon monoxide are approximately the same density, they mix equally well in air. Therefore most alarms measuring carbon monoxide can be placed anywhere in a room.  Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen anywhere and at any time in your home. However, most carbon monoxide poisoning cases occur while people are sleeping.  For that reason it is recommended that you install at least one carbon monoxide alarm with an audible alarm near the sleeping areas. Install additional alarms on every level, especially where you have appliances capable of producing carbon monoxide, to provide maximum protection.


    Apr 24, 2013

    A fire escape plan is essential if you are to survive a fire in your home. The plan, when practiced, will help you to react rationally when confronted by a fire emergency. This is very important if the fire occurs during the night.

    Certain factors must be considered when developing your own fire escape plan. Firstly, what type of dwelling do you live in? Is it a house or an apartment? Think about the location of bedrooms and their proximity to exits. Are the bedrooms on the first floor and easy to exit from? Or are they on the second floor with two ways out? Or are they on the third floor or higher with no convenient second exit? How about the physical abilities of the residents in relation to where they sleep? Are they active and mobile or physically challenged or unable to walk?

    Regardless of how familiar you are with your home, draw a floor plan. Include all doors and windows that could be used as a second means of escape. Include outside features, such as adjoining roof areas, balconies or porch roofs, which could be used in case of fire. Again, recognize the limitations of the people within each room.

    Know two ways out of each room in case your main exit becomes blocked with smoke. Ensure that secondary escape routes are accessible and that the occupants are physically capable of using it. If windows are to be used for escape, you must make sure that they will open easily.

    Establish a meeting place away from the building so that all members of the family can be accounted for. Arrange with a neighbor to use their telephone to call 911. In this way every person in your home will know what to do if and when fire strikes.

    Each of us must prepare ourselves in case a fire occurs in our home. It is advisable for older adults to have telephones in their sleeping areas. Eyeglasses and other appliances, such as hearing aids, should be kept on the night table when you go to bed. All necessary medication should be close at hand as well. If you use a wheelchair, walker or cane to move about, then these items should be kept close at hand.

    At Home

    Develop and Practice a Fire Escape Plan

    Draw a floor plan of your home showing all possible exits from each room

    Where possible, plan two exits - a main route and an alternate exit route from each room

    Make certain that everyone understands that if they hear the smoke alarm, or someone

    shouting "FIRE", they should immediately evacuate the home

    Designate a meeting place outside your home in the event of fire

    If you live in an apartment building, develop your escape plan taking into

    account fire escape procedures provided by the building management

         Make sure your baby-sitter understands your fire escape plan



    Mar 18, 2013

    Working smoke alarms in your home can reduce the chance of dying in a fire by 50 percent. Those are odds you can live with! Smoke alarms alert you that a fire has started and give you ample time to escape. Since most fire deaths occur at night while people are sleeping, it is important to install working smoke alarms in the home to give you and your family enough time to get out of the house safely. Each residence should have a working smoke alarm on each level of the home and in or near each bedroom.

    Maintenance: Test your smoke alarms at least once a month by pushing the test button. If you have standard nine-volt batteries (not 10-year batteries), a good rule of thumb is to replace your batteries twice a year when you change your clock in the spring and the fall. If your alarm ?chirps,? replace the battery immediately. If you have hard-wired alarms, battery back-up is required in case of a power failure. Vacuum or dust your smoke alarms according to manufacturer?s directions to keep them working properly. Replace your entire smoke alarm after ten years.


    If you are a post resident and have problems with your detectors please contact your village Housing office. If you live off post and cannot afford smoke alarms or are unable to install them, please contact your local fire station for assistance. Remember, if you are renting, your landlord is responsible for providing smoke alarms.


    Mar 07, 2013
      The warm air is coming with this weekend possibility seeing 60 degrees and it’s that time a year again for Daylight Saving Time to turn the clocks forward. Remember Saturday night before going to bed that you move your clock forward one hour. Also take that time to change the batteries in the smoke alarms and remind your neighbors, family and friends to do the same.
    Jan 24, 2013

    Listed below are some helpful safety websites for kids.









    Jan 24, 2013

    The United States has a severe fire problem, more so than is generally perceived. Nationally, there are millions of fires, thousands of deaths, tens of thousands of injuries, and billions of dollar loss - which makes the U.S. fire problem one of great national importance. More than 4,000 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 20,000 are injured. An overwhelming number of fires occur in the home. There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It's not a question of luck. It's a matter of planning ahead.

    Every Home Should Have at Least One Working Smoke Alarm

    Buy a smoke alarm at any hardware or discount store. It's inexpensive protection for you and your family. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Working smoke alarms can double your chances of survival. Test it monthly, keep it free of dust and replace the battery at least once a year. Smoke alarms themselves should be replaced after ten years of service, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

    Prevent Electrical Fires

    Never overload circuits or extension cords. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell. Have them professionally repaired or replaced.

    Use Appliances Wisely

    When using appliances follow the manufacturer's safety precautions. Overheating, unusual smells, shorts and sparks are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off, then replaced or repaired. Unplug appliances when not in use. Use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children in the home.

    Alternate Heaters

    • Portable heaters need their space. Keep anything combustible at least three feet away.
    • Keep fire in the fireplace. Use fire screens and have your chimney cleaned annually. The creosote buildup can ignite a chimney fire that could easily spread.
    • Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp-stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled.

    Affordable Home Fire Safety Sprinklers

    When home fire sprinklers are used with working smoke alarms, your chances of surviving a fire are greatly increased. Sprinklers are affordable - they can increase property value and lower insurance rates.

    Plan Your Escape

    Practice an escape plan from every room in the house. Caution everyone to stay low to the floor when escaping from fire and never to open doors that are hot. Select a location where everyone can meet after escaping the house. Get out then call for help.

    Caring for Children

    Children under five are naturally curious about fire. Many play with matches and lighters. Tragically, children set over 20,000 house fires every year. Take the mystery out of fire play by teaching your children that fire is a tool, not a toy.

    Caring for Older People

    Every year over 1,200 senior citizens die in fires. Many of these fire deaths could have been prevented. Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and can't respond quickly.

    Source: United States Fire Administration

    Jan 24, 2013

    The Fort Belvoir Fire and Emergency Services has SUSPENDED CHILD SEAT INSTALLATIONS.


    Please refer to websites below for assistance.


    If you have additional questions about child passenger safety, contact Fire Marshal John Weaver, CPS Program Manager for Fort Belvoir 703-805-2091.


    Virginia Safety Seat Website: http://www.vahealth.org/injury/safetyseat/PSAs/movies/index.htm



    Jan 24, 2013

    Every year about 43,000 people are injured in and around swimming pools and more than 600 people drown in home or public pools.

    Half of the pool fatalities occur in the yards of single-family homes.



    Here are some pool safety tips you should follow:

    • Never leave small children unsupervised ? even for a few seconds.
    • Put fencing around the pool area to keep people from using the pool without your knowledge.
    • Keep children away from pool filters, as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing.
    • Be sure all pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer.
    • Don?t swim alone or allow others to swim alone.
    • Check the pool area regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards.
    • Keep CD players, radios and other electrical devices away from pools or nearby wet surfaces.
    • Don?t allow anyone who has been drinking alcohol to use the pool.
    • Stay out of the pool during rain or lightning storms.
    • Never dive into an above-ground pool and check the water depth before plunging into an in-ground pool.
    • Keep clear of the area near a diving board.
    • Don?t swim if you?re tired or have just finished eating


    Jan 24, 2013

    Before using your BBQ for the first time this season, check it thoroughly to ensure that all hoses are clear and firmly attached and that there are no leaks or blockages.

    Never use water to control grease flare-ups on gas barbeques.

    Before having a propane cylinder filled, check it for dents, gouges or other signs of disrepair.

    When having a cylinder filled, it is important to make sure that the cylinder is not overfilled.  Also, check the expiry date, you should never use or refill a cylinder that is older than ten years.

    Check and make sure all connections are tight BEFORE turning on the gas. Leaks can be detected by dabbing the connections with a solution of soapy water and turning on the gas momentarily. If bubbles occur, there is a leak and it must be fixed before the grill is used.

    NEVER store spare propane cylinders indoors or near a barbecue, heat source or open flame.

    Always set up BBQ's in an open area at least 10 feet from any house, shed, fence, tree or any other combustible material, such as leaves or brush. Be aware of the wind blowing sparks.

    It's a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher within handy reach.

    To prevent burns use long handled barbecue tools and/or flame retardant mitts.

    Do not wear loose clothing and watch for dangling apron strings and shirt-tails.

    NEVER start a gas grill with the lid closed.

    When using starter fluid make sure to place the can away from the grill before lighting and NEVER add fluid to an already lit grill.

    Page Last Updated: Jul 16, 2013 (07:57:00)
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