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Local News

January 25, 2014

Fire chief: CO poisoning has been recent problem

Oneonta Fire Department crews responded to two calls in a single morning this week about about carbon monoxide, including one where three residents were asleep in a hazardous situation, the chief said.

The second call involved a CO alarm that needed batteries replaced, Chief Patrick Pidgeon said. The number of CO alarm incidents has more than than doubled since 2010, the year he became chief, he said.

In a report to the Common Council on Tuesday, Pidgeon said CO calls are on the rise in part because some detectors are passing their expected useful lifespan. In other cases, residents are “new” consumers and are figuring out how the devices work, he said.

Carbon monoxide, often called the silent killer, is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fuels, such as gasoline, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane, burn incompletely. In a home, heating and cooking appliances that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide.

Under the state’s Amanda’s Law, which went into effect in 2010, CO alarms must be installed in new and existing one and two-family homes, multi-family dwellings and rental units with fuel-burning appliances, systems or an attached garage.

The law was named for Amanda Hansen, a Buffalo teenager who died of CO poisoning from a defective boiler when sleeping over at a friend’s house in January 2009.

Alarms cost about $20 to $50, depending on features, the Amanda’s Law website said.

Carbon monoxide incidents nationally cause more than 400 deaths, 20,000 emergency room visits and 4,000 hospitalizations each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fatalities are highest among individuals 65 and older, the center said, and people who are asleep can die from CO poisoning before experiencing symptoms.

Earlier this month, a Garrattsville couple, ages 67 and 68, escaped a fatal encounter with carbon monoxide because of a clogged exhaust on the propane boiler that heats their house. Their CO detector was defective, and after they and their pets experienced symptoms, the couple called 911 and was treated in Syracuse hospital for poisoning.

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