Winter is creeping up on us and this season is a much different one. As temperatures begin to drop and we prepare for cooler nights in Adelaide, out come the doonas, electric blankets and gas heaters. Winter is a time when fire danger in the home increases along with the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is why we suggest a pre-winter service of your gas heater.
Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week begins the week of 27 April to 3 May and is a timely reminder to get your gas heaters serviced for Winter. With 50% of Australians lacking awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning, such questions are constantly being raised, “what is carbon monoxide” and “why do we need a week dedicated to awareness of carbon monoxide”?
In the first quarter of 2020, recent bushfires and COVID 19 have influenced carbon monoxide cases. As many of us are having our families home more often, generators are being misused and causing carbon monoxide poisoning. This is a worry leading into a busy Winter period, prompting the SA Government to issue warnings and best practices.
If your gas heater is not serviced and maintained it can leak carbon monoxide. A colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that has a devastating effect on the health of people in the household. It has been called the silent killer because carbon monoxide fumes can potentially cause death without anyone being aware.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
Exposure to carbon monoxide increases the level of carbon monoxide buildup in your bloodstream. The oxygen in your red blood cells are then replaced by carbon monoxide and leave you depleted of vital oxygen. It is toxic to everyone but especially to unborn babies, children, the elderly and anyone with a heart condition.
At best, it causes nausea, dizziness, headaches and confusion. At worst it causes death. We cannot stress enough the importance of checking and servicing your gas heaters, whether you are a homeowner or landlord.
Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week and the role of the Chase Tyler Foundation
In May 2010, Vanessa and Scott Robinson lost their two boys Chase, 8 and Tyler, 10, who died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty gas heater at their rental home in Mooroopna, Victoria. This tragic and devastating event spurred Vanessa and Scott to establish the Chase and Tyler Foundation to raise awareness of the impact of carbon monoxide. Their website has many tips on using gas safely inside and outside the home.
Their work in spreading the word about carbon monoxide poisoning in our communities has led to the launch of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week 2020 from 27 April to 3 May. This event occurs annually just before winter begins. You can get involved, donate and help spread the word on the effects of carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide safety guide
- Have your gas heaters and other heating appliances serviced by a qualified and licensed technician every year.
- Install a CO detector system close to main living and sleeping areas. Ensure it isn’t positioned too close to gas heaters, ovens and fire places as they correctly burn gas.
- Test alarms every month. Replace the batteries twice a year, follow a similar pattern to daylight savings. Get into the routine of changing your clocks and the batteries to your alarms.
- Understand the symptoms and seek medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning.
- Erratic behaviour
- General lethargy
- Try not to leave your vehicle on idle inside a garage attached to your home.
- Do not heat your home with a gas oven or any other appliance and only use a specified space heater.
- Use a generator with precaution – they shouldn’t be used in homes, garages or other enclosed spaces and should be kept 7 meters away from any window, door or vent that leads into your living space.
What to do in an emergency
- Open windows and doors to air out your home
- Do not ignite any flames or sparks
- Switch off lights, appliances and fans
- Switch off the gas bottle valve by turning it clockwise
- Get yourself and your family outside into the fresh air
- Ring Australian Gas Networks 1800 GAS LEAK (1800 427 532) if you smell or suspect a gas leak near the meter itself.