One of the main components of fire smoke is carbon monoxide, but what do you really know about it? Do you know that a fire mask emergency escape hood can help prevent its inhalation during a fire, giving you up to sixty vital minutes to escape?
Smoke inhalation is a leading cause of death during fires, so it makes sense to have a fire mask handy in case a fire breaks out in your home. In this article, we explore what carbon monoxide is and why we need to prevent ourselves from its exposure.
The fumes released from any fire will be a complete mixture of a variety of chemical substances, many of which are hazardous to health. During a fire, we try so desperately to breathe in oxygen but instead we are breathing in dangerous toxins which can kill us within minutes. The general consensus is to stay down low, but the best way to prevent inhalation is to be prepared with a fire escape oxygen mask to help you and your family activate the fire evacuation procedure and get out! The greater risk to health comes to those more vulnerable. This includes anyone with cardiovascular or respiratory conditions, unborn babies, young infants and children, and the elderly.
Carbon monoxide itself is a silent killer as it has no warning smell or taste. There also doesn’t need to be a fire for it to kill us. It is estimated that sixty people each year in England and Wales die from carbon monoxide exposure. Once breathed in it mixes with the substances in your blood that are responsible for carrying around the oxygen to all the parts of the body. The oxygen can no longer bind to the substance, leaving your body to deplete in a vital chemical.
The symptoms from exposure can increase gradually over a long period of time and may be more pronounced when near the polluting source. They may not always be easy to detect and may be quite mild. The symptoms can be similar to the signs of a virus – something we are all familiar with currently, but there is no high temperature associated with carbon monoxide poisoning.
The most common symptom is a headache. Other symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, fatigue and confusion; dizziness; pains in the stomach; and difficulty with breathing. The more you are exposed to the source without an effective smoke inhalation face mask, and the higher the levels of the carbon monoxide the worse the symptoms will be. Continued exposure can lead to vision loss, disruption to balance, memory lapses, and eventually unconsciousness.
If exposed over a long period of time to a low-level source of carbon monoxide then there can be severe consequences that can go unnoticed until it is too late. Changes in behaviour and personality, uncontrollable body functions and difficulty in concentrating on a task in hand are examples of signs that the source needs to be identified.
Where does carbon monoxide come from?
As already mentioned, fire smoke contains carbon monoxide which can be inhaled in high quantities if a protective fire mask or emergency escape hood is not worn. However, carbon monoxide will come from any source where carbon is being burned, but not completely. This can be any wood, gas, oil, or coal. A car engine, for instance, burns oil in the form of petrol or diesel and incomplete burning causes carbon monoxide to be released from the exhaust pipe. In the home, cookers, gas fires, and boilers can all release carbon monoxide into the surrounding atmosphere. All of these and other appliances should be checked if there is any concern. Any that are not installed correctly or are faulty in any way can release the toxic gas into the atmosphere which is worsened in the colder months where we keep the house tightly closed up. Awareness of the risks that this silent chemical can pose is paramount to safety in your home.
Carbon monoxide monitors can be purchased from a reputable source and should only be bought if they have been approved by British or European standards. This will alert you via an alarm that will sound when a dangerous level of the gas is in the surrounding air.
We recommend the following safety advice to minimise the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as a first step, but you should always check with a local fire authority if you have any concerns:
- Service appliances
- Ventilate rooms
- Use an extractor fan in the kitchen
- Do not burn charcoal inside
- If using methylene chloride ensure you wear a protective face mask
Remember that knowledge and prevention is key to ensuring you and your family are safe from inhalation of dangerous toxic chemicals like carbon monoxide. If you are exposed to high levels without the proper safety equipment such as oxygen-breathing masks, then exposure can easily lead to unnecessary and preventable death. So following some simple safety advice searching out the best fire escape emergency hood might just give you that peace of mind that you are protected from that toxic killer.