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SFMO, Dept. of Health Share Tips Ahead of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day

Often Called ‘The Silent Killer’, Over-Exposure to the Odorless Gas Can be Deadly
Tuesday, September 17, 2019 | 11:45am

NASHVILLE – In recognition of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day (Sept. 18), the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) and the Tennessee Department of Health are sharing safety tips to remind Tennesseans of the dangers associated with carbon monoxide, often called the “silent killer.”

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas created when natural fuels burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel, like barbeques, fireplaces, and fuel-powered heaters, are potential sources of carbon monoxide.

“On September 18, we remember the victims of carbon monoxide poisoning and urge Tennesseans to be cognizant of the dangers that arise from this colorless, odorless gas,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Interim Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Carter Lawrence. “Before using a chimney or a generator this fall and winter, Tennesseans should educate themselves about the dangers of carbon monoxide and take steps today to prevent over-exposure in their homes.”

Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP said: “We worry about carbon monoxide poisoning in storms and bad weather, when people use portable generators during power outages. But it can also happen in beautiful weather when people are enjoying the outdoors if equipment isn’t used properly. Follow all manufacturers’ directions for safe use of generators to help prevent illness and death from CO poisoning.”

In 2015, legislation was signed declaring September 18 of each calendar year as Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day in Tennessee. The designation was made in honor of five friends who were killed as a result of CO poisoning on September 18, 2011, in Clarksville, Tennessee. Jon and Kathryn Watson Over, Jim Wall, Tim Stone and Allison Bagwell-Wyatt lost their lives at a children’s charity fundraiser 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.

Christine Watson, who lost her daughter and son-in-law to the tragedy on September 18, 2011, has a powerful testimonial warning others about the dangers of carbon monoxide.

To help Tennesseans avoid the risks associated with carbon monoxide poisoning, the SFMO shares the following tips:

  • 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 and 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 run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open.
  • Do not use fuel-powered equipment in the garage.
  • Have fuel-burning heating equipment and chimneys inspected by a professional every year before cold weather sets in.
  • When using a fireplace, ensure the flue is open for adequate ventilation.
  • Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and confusion. Many of these symptoms are like 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.
  • 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.
  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home or RV. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms so that when one sounds, they all sound. Choose an alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory and always following the manufacturer’s instructions for installation.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the structure is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.

For more information on how to keep your family safe from the dangers of fire and carbon monoxide, visit