Safety for You: Finding ‘The Silent Killer’

(WLNS) – It’s known as “the silent killer.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every year in the U.S. more than 4,000 people are rushed to hospitals for carbon monoxide poisoning and more than 400 die.

And if you don’t have a CO detector in your home here are six reasons why you should.

In a small Fenton Township neighborhood on a cold February afternoon Fenton Township fire chief Ryan Volz went inside a home to a scene that’s now seared into his memory.

“One of the hardest calls to ever respond to,” remembered Volz. “In my eyes, for the some, 20 some years I’ve been in this business.”

Room after room. Body after body.

Heather. Leonard. Grant. Luke. Brenden and Rachel. All dead. All because of carbon monoxide.

Two days before a storm cut their power.

Genesee County sheriff’s officials say the Quasarano family hooked-up their propane generator to get heat pumping back into their home.

They didn’t know the generator itself was pumping deadly gas inside, as well.

They set it up in the basement when it should have been outside.

With their home sealed, carbon monoxide crawled through.

They couldn’t see it, they couldn’t smell it and based on where their bodies were found scattered on every level of the home officials say they likely had no idea it was there, killing each of them one-by-one.

Volz describes the symptoms. “It’s the silent killer. You get fatigued, you get light-headed, you get to the point where you don’t know what’s going on. And then you pass out and then the final is, you die.”

About a month before that tragic accident another family of six, this one in Ionia, nearly died.

Amy Latimer was helping her niece take care of her four young children inside a home on January 28.

They were all sleeping when the one-year-old fell out of bed and started crying.

That woke the three-year-old up and she went into her mom’s bedroom.

Latimer remembers “she said mommy, my head isn’t working right.”

Amy and her niece both felt sick when they got up and knew right away something was terribly wrong and that it might be carbon monoxide.

Minutes later they got everyone out and called 9-1-1.

The cause?

A malfunctioning furnace.

Public safety officials in Ionia say the levels inside the home read “400 parts per million.”

They got lucky, because that’s lethal.

Latiner said “we could have lost six family members, three generations, all in one night.”

Amy’s family didn’t have a working carbon monoxide detector in their home.

The Quasarano’s didn’t have one at all.

They run anywhere from $20 to well over a hundred.

Some plug-in, some have batteries’ some digital read-outs but all designed to do the same thing: Warn you when poisonous gas is lurking.

Brad Drury, Delhi Twp assistant chief, explains how CO works in the body. “What CO does is, it goes into your blood stream and instead of, your blood cells pick up oxygen and it blocks your blood cells from picking up oxygen, so you slowly start to suffocate, from the inside basically and you’re not getting enough oxygen to your vital organs.”

The CO detector is first.

Second? Drury says Get to know your home. Know what appliances inside can give-off CO. Things like your furnace, water heater, fireplace, stove, gas dryer and in your garage or near the home?
Your car, generator, b-b-q, anything that burns fuel.

Third: Make sure those appliances are functioning properly, make sure they’re clean and have them inspected regularly especially if they’re old.

And fourth, Drury says you should know what not to do. “Some of the terrible mistakes that happen with CO is when people lose power. When people lose power, they look for alternative heating sources. People will connect generators up in their garage, but their garage is sealed up and it’s actually allowing CO to get inside the home. Or they’ll put a generator up right outside of a window and its not sealed very well. Those types of engines put out a lot of carbon monoxide.”

In the case of the Quasarano’s they put the generator directly inside, the worst thing you can do.

Assistant chief Drury also says stoves should never be used to heat your home.

Doing that could also be deadly.

And as we head into the cold winter months and you seal your family inside you need to ask: Are we safe in our own home?

Unless you have a carbon monoxide detector can you ever really know?

You can find c-o detectors any places like Lowe’s, Home Depot and Walmart.

As far as where to put them all of that information will be on the packaging.

But if you can afford it, there should be at least one on every level of your home.

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