27 people were evaluated at an apartment complex in Gwinnett County for carbon monoxide poisoning Tuesday morning, and now one local fire official is speaking out about how to protect yourself from the deadly gas.
Jason Shivers, division chief with the Forsyth County Fire Department, said that while carbon monoxide is a naturally occurring gas, it can be dangerous due to the nature of modern buildings.
“It can be very dangerous, especially in a modern society,” Shivers said. “Our buildings are built so tight today, the tolerances in which we build our homes, and our businesses are done so well to keep them insulated for efficiency that they don’t breathe as well as they used to. It essentially creates a capsule that that very deadly gas can build up inside of a box, inside of a home or business.”
Carbon monoxide is hard to detect, due to its tasteless and odorless nature. However, Shivers said high volumes of the gas can be detected in a building with the use of a carbon monoxide detector.
“It detects the presence of carbon monoxide and then alarms us to its presence when it reaches a level approaching danger so that you can take precautions and open up your home or open up your business and get out of the environment,” Shivers said.
Shivers said each home or business should have at least one carbon monoxide detector he recommended referencing the instructional manual of the device for information regarding the placement of additional detectors in a building.
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of combustion, or fire, according to Shivers.
“Anything that burns produces carbon monoxide,” Shivers said. “That can be fireplaces, gas heaters, your stove or your oven, your home heating system … all those features of your home or business that burn some kind of fuel and then produce an exhaust or gas has to be vented appropriately and burning efficiently.”
In the case of Tuesday’s carbon monoxide incident in Gwinnett County, officials believe a gas-powered generator was responsible for the high volumes of carbon monoxide at the apartment complex.
Shivers said Forsyth County Fire frequently deals with carbon monoxide-related incidents, but incidents with carbon monoxide poisoning are a bit rarer. The frequency of carbon monoxide incidents does increase in the winter, due to the more frequent usage of fireplaces and heaters, according to Shivers.
If a carbon monoxide detector starts going off in your home or business, Shivers recommends evacuating the building immediately and calling 911.
Shivers said anyone who cannot financially afford a carbon monoxide detector should contact their local fire department for assistance.
“We want to make sure that you’re safe, and when I say we, I’m speaking on behalf of all of the area fire departments,” Shivers said.