April 10, 2006
HEALTH DEPARTMENT: CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM IS LIFESAVER FOR CHARLOTTE FAMILY OF THREE
Charlotte, NC – A working carbon monoxide alarm is being hailed as a lifesaver for a southwest Charlotte family.
The Charlotte Fire Department was called to a home on Spruce Peak Road on Friday, April 7 around 4 a.m. after the homeowner awoke to hear his CO alarm sounding. Someone in the family had accidentally left a car running in an attached garage of the home the family had just moved into.
The car idled for approximately five hours until the alarm sounded. The husband woke up, smelled the exhaust fumes upstairs and remembered the car running in the garage. He was able to move it, call 911, and get his wife and two year old child out of the home and to safety.
The home was equipped with a CO alarm, as required by a Mecklenburg County health ordinance. Firefighters measured CO levels in the home at 300 parts per million, several times higher than the safest limit. They were able to ventilate the home and allow the family back in after about an hour.
None of the family members appears to have suffered serious injury. But without the carbon monoxide alarm to wake them, the results could have been deadly.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the United States, with close to 4000 deaths each year from CO poisoning. Young children, pregnant women, senior citizens and people with heart disease or respiratory problems are especially vulnerable to CO poisoning.
INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY: To explain Mecklenburg County’s carbon monoxide ordinance and answer questions about the incident, visit with Mecklenburg County Medical Director Dr. Stephen Keener and Charlotte Fire Department Captain Greg Sharpe, who responded to the home. Both will be available at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 11 at Fire Station 37 located at 14525 Sledge Road.
We often think of carbon monoxide as being a predominantly cold weather problem, due to the fact that CO is produced by fuel burning appliances such as kerosene, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. However, CO can be produced by electric generators and other combustion engines, such as this family’s automobile running in the garage. It can also be generated by natural gas ranges and stoves, gas clothes dryers and water heaters.
Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, tasteless and non-irritating. Because of this, an exposed person can be overcome without warning, causing weakness, confusion, and depriving its victim of the ability to seek safety.
Mecklenburg County’s carbon monoxide alarm ordinance has been in effect for more than five years, initially for dwellings with fossil fuel burning appliances and attached garages. Two years ago, it was amended to require ALL dwelling units contain at least one working carbon monoxide alarm. These alarms must be battery-powered or have a battery back up.
A CO alarm can be purchased at any local home improvement store and in the hardware section of many retail stores for about $20-$50. For more information about the dangers of CO or the County’s ordinance, visit the Health Department’s CO poisoning website at