Cleveland Heights Fire Chief William Freeman said in his 20 years with the fire department, he could not recall a death from carbon monoxide poisoning in the city.
But he's seen plenty of poisonings and many close calls.
"Ninety percent of the time it's not going to kill you. It's going to make you sick," Freeman said.
That was until Nov. 8, when he responded to Elise and Gregory Lindsay's home on East Monmouth. The couple and their pets were found dead in the kitchen. Freeman said an old boiler was to blame.
"We usually get there in time," Freeman said quietly. He said when he got there, the levels in the basement were still extremely high even though the doors had been open. It indicated to him that whatever happened, it happened quickly and without warning.
In the wake of the tragic accident, Freeman provided several safety tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
- One carbon monoxide detector should be on each level of a home. This is the best prevention method, he said. Make sure it is installed several feet away from appliances and read the manufacturer's instructions for exact placement recommendations.
- Make sure you understand different alert signals. The devices will alarm when they have a low battery or when they are too close to appliances, for example.
- If the device alarms, move outside to fresh air immediately and call the fire department.
- Test the devices monthly, and change the battery at least once a year. Freeman recommends to make battery changing part of a Daylight Saving Time routine.
- The most important place to put a carbon monoxide detector is outside of bedrooms. In addition, carbon monoxide rises, so it's important that detectors are on the upper levels of a home.
- Have gas appliances serviced regularly, though Freeman says this is not the "end all be all." Appliances can malfunction quickly, even if you get them checked regularly.
- Make sure chimneys are clear, but again, a bird can build a nest in a day or so. Detectors are the best prevention.
- Carbon monoxide is tasteless, odorless and colorless. If you have a headache, feel dizzy or nauseous or feel a strange stinging in your eye, it could be signs that carbon monoxide levels are high. Freeman said some families think they have the flu for weeks, when really the CO levels in their home are too high.
- Gas and charcoal grills can produce CO - only use them outdoors.
- Open your garage door if you turn your car on to warm it up in the morning.
- For more safety tips and information about detectors, visit the National Fire Protection Association website.