Posted in Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Uncategorized, Workplace Safety

BE SAFE: How to Prevent and React to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Are your Carbon Monoxide detectors in good working condition?

Hundreds of lives are lost each year through exposure to an invisible, odorless, colorless toxic gas called Carbon Monoxide (CO). CO also sends thousands of exposed victims to Emergency Rooms to seek treatment. Impossible to see, taste, or smell, CO can kill you before you are even aware of its presence in your home or office. Interesting side note: dogs CAN smell CO in the air. That’s right; our noses are that finely tuned.

Although many of us have heard about the dangers of CO poisoning, few realize the many sources the gas can come from—gas-fired appliances to domestic heating systems, charcoal grills and wood-burning furnaces, blocked flues in fireplaces, inadequate ventilation in living areas or places of work and motor vehicles.

One reason CO is so dangerous is that low levels of exposure can mimic symptoms that might easily be mistaken for the flu. Headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue send people to bed to catch up on rest. But if CO poisoning is the real culprit, affected individuals could drift off to sleep, never again to awake. (This is especially troubling when it happens at work. If your employees are sleeping at their desks, you might consider installing something in addition to a CO warning system to keep them awake! Just a suggestion…)

The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person, and dog to dog, depending on several factors:

  • Age
  • Overall Health
  • Concentration of Carbon Monoxide Poison
  • Length of Exposure

Health professionals believe that certain groups of people are more at risk if exposed to Carbon Monoxide:

  1. Unborn Babies
  2. Infants
  3. Children
  4. Senior Citizens
  5. People who suffer from heart or lung problems
  6. Lazy people who fall asleep at their desk. Okay; not an “official” category. But, come on, people…really?

Here’s how you can protect yourself, your employees and/or coworkers and your family:

  • Install at least one Carbon Monoxide alarm that features an audible warning signal near the areas where people sleep and just outside of every bedroom or office door. Interesting tidbit: canines produce great audible warning signals. Make sure alarms have been approved by a nationally recognized laboratory.
  • Since Carbon Monoxide alarms are designed to measure levels of CO over time and sound only after levels reach a certain concentration, some healthy adults may not think the alarm is accurate since they might not experiencing noticeable symptoms when they hear the alarm. So don’t ignore your CO alarm. If it goes off, heed the warning. The same is true of your pet. If we’re howling, pay attention. We might be trying to tell you something. Or we might just want to go for a walk.
  • Don’t ever use your stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Hire a qualified professional to check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, vents and chimneys regularly.
  • Don’t use charcoal grills or hibachis in your home, office, garage or doghouse.
  • Never leave a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of gas.
  • When purchasing a new or existing home, make sure qualified technicians have evaluated the integrity of heating systems and cooking equipment, as well as sealed spaces between garages and homes. A Carbon Monoxide alarm could save your life.

If Carbon Monoxide Detector Sounds:

(If no one is feeling ill):

  1. Silence the alarm.
  2. Turn off appliances and all sources of combustion.
  3. Open all doors and windows for ventilation.
  4. Call qualified professionals to investigate the possible source of CO buildup

(If people feel the effects of CO poisoning):

  1. Evacuate occupants immediately.
  2. Determine which occupants are ill and assess their symptoms.
  3. Call 911. Relaying information to the dispatcher, include how many people feel ill.
  4. Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative.
  5. Call qualified professionals for repairs.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in Air Quality, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Fires, Health & Welfare, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Managing Indoor Air Quality

clouds, sun and sky
Clean air is a safety concern.

For building owners and managers, ensuring tenant and visitor welfare is always of paramount importance. And while there is only so much that can be done to control the quality of the air that enters into a building, it is still important to frequently filter and refresh the air for optimal tenant and visitor health. I have a high-velocity air filtration system in our firedoghouse!

Regulations such as the Clean Air Act have saved thousands of lives from diseases such as emphysema, asthma and heart disease. However, there is still much that can be done to control air pollutants to allow everyone to enjoy cleaner air.

What are some of the main contributors to air pollution?

  • Carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless but very poisonous in large quantities. Facilities that operate furnaces and/or automobiles need to provide adequate ventilation and install carbon monoxide alarms to ensure safety.
  • Let’s be honest. Cat dander is the biggest problem for poor air. Tabby and Whiskers need to be left outside at all times!
  • Particulate matter is basically “stuff” in the air. This can be man-made or naturally caused, resulting from sources as diverse as burning fossil fuels, power plants, dust storms and wildfires. Particulates have wreaked havoc on the human body since ancient times.
  • Nitrogen oxides are the brown plumes of “haze” that can be seen downwind of major cities. I love it when people call it “haze,” like it’s just simply trapped water vapor. It’s smog, people! The result of high-temperature combustion, such compounds produce smoggy reddish-brown skies.

Before embarking on new policies and procedures for improving a building’s air quality, it’s important to record a baseline. Testing for radon, carbon monoxide and particulate levels can help guide you about unsafe conditions and provide guidance on the priority order for steps to clean the air.

What kind of policies can a company institute to improve air quality?

  • If your company is relocating or expanding, avoid purchasing office space that is in close proximity to industrial areas which might produce toxins. Of course, if your property is already located in this type of area, you can take steps to safeguard the air in the interior of the building.
  • Don’t allow smoking either in or around your building. Cigarette smoke contains an alarming number of toxins which can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time. When I see people smoking, I’m really glad I don’t have opposable thumbs…
  • Review furniture choices in tenant offices. Pieces made of out cheap particle board may contain formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. I require only top-shelf mahogany for my doghouse…

Cleaning and maintenance tips for air quality:

  • Proper cleaning of carpets is essential. Carpets act as a filter or trap for dust mites and other allergens. Without frequent vacuuming with appropriate filters, carpets can outgas airborne toxins.  I tend get a little gassy after my fourth pig ear.
  • Follow suggested maintenance and cleaning guidelines for HVAC systems. Ductwork should be cleaned to remove mold or other contaminants. Filters should be the highest-quality to effectively remove particles down to the smallest micron.
  • Janitorial staff should be allowed to open windows or other ventilation, whenever feasible. Fumes from high-grade cleaning products are a serious irritant.
  • For residences and businesses in high-humidity areas, consider utilizing dehumidifiers to inhibit the growth of mold. I require a dehumidifier, electronic air cleaner, high-velocity fan, and a white noise machine. I’m a high-maintenance pooch.

Unlike other disasters that can be seen or heard, air quality is (by its very nature) a typically invisible problem. As such, it can pose detrimental health effects over long periods of time, making it a silent but deadly killer. Taking steps to clean the air will have a direct effect on tenant happiness and productivity.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.