September 18, 2015 Recognized as Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day in Tennessee

Friday, September 18, 2015 | 08:43am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office marks the state’s first recognized Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day (September 18, 2015) by reminding Tennesseans to protect themselves and their families from what is often called the “silent killer.” 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas created when fuels (such as kerosene, gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. Carbon monoxide can result from camping equipment, such as barbecue grills, portable generators or other fuel-powered devices.

CO poisoning can have tragic consequences. On Sept. 18, 2011, five friends — Jon and Kathryn Watson Over, Jim Wall, Tim Stone and Allison Bagwell-Wyatt— lost their lives in Clarksville, Tenn. when carbon monoxide fumes from a generator seeped into their rented RV. The RV’s carbon monoxide detector, which could have prevented the deaths, was later discovered to have no batteries.

“As we commemorate the first Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day, the State Fire Marshal’s Office urges Tennesseans to learn the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning and how tragedy can be prevented,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance and State Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “We offer our condolences to the families of CO poisoning victims everywhere.”

Since the 2011 tragedy, progress has been made to protect consumers and raise awareness of CO poisoning. Tennessee law now requires that rented RVs must have functioning carbon monoxide detectors before being leased for use. The law also holds RV rental companies responsible if they fail to document and test the CO detectors in their leased vehicles.

 (This law only applies to RV rentals.) It is still imperative that RV owners stay diligent in testing and changing the batteries of carbon monoxide detectors in their own campers.

Earlier this year, legislation was signed by Governor Bill Haslam declaring Sept. 18 as Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day in Tennessee. The legislation was sponsored in the House by Tennessee State Representative Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville) and in the Senate by Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville).

This week, Skylar Hughes, 18, presented Austin Peay State University President Alisa White with a $25,000 check for the creation of the Kathryn Watson Over Endowment at APSU. The new scholarship, which was awarded at a ceremony at Kenwood High School in Clarksville, will be awarded each year to a Kenwood High School graduate who plans to major in education at APSU.

“The creation of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day was the brainchild of Skylar Hughes, a former student of Kathryn Over, who was one of the five people who tragically lost their lives on September 18,” said Representative Pitts. "Great thanks to the Department of Commerce and Insurance for their help in promoting Carbon Monoxide poisoning detection and saving lives in our state."

To help families become aware of CO poisoning, the SFMO offers the following safety tips:

To prevent CO poisoning, never use a gas generator inside your home, garage, carport basement, crawlspace or outside near a window, door or vent. A generator should only be used outdoors at least 15 feet away from buildings. It is dangerous to use a gas or kerosene heater inside a home or other building.

Never use a gas range or gas oven to heat your home. Do not use a gas or charcoal grill indoors, and do not burn charcoal in your fireplace.

Do not leave a vehicle running in a garage when the door is closed, and do not use power equipment in the garage.  

Carbon monoxide detectors are important in protecting against CO poisoning, and are widely available at home and hardware stores. Carbon monoxide detectors can provide an early warning before the gas reaches a dangerous level.

Each home or business should have at least one carbon monoxide detector. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and confusion. Many of these symptoms are similar to common colds or seasonal flu. Breathing high levels of carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness or even death.

If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, turn off possible sources of the gas.

Any person who has been exposed to carbon monoxide should go outside to get fresh air to breathe. If someone is unconscious, open doors and windows to bring in fresh air.