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Three children and two adults were rushed to the hospital on Wednesday following a carbon monoxide leak in their Smithfield, Rhode Island, home. According to news reports, firefighters found two of the children and the mother unconscious as a result of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. Smithfield Fire Chief Robert Seltzer indicated that a malfunction in the heating system appeared to be the cause of the leak. It was also reported that were no working carbon monoxide alarms in the home.

 

In Weymouth, Massachusetts, an off-duty firefighter saved an elderly couple from carbon monoxide poisoning last month after seeing heavy-black smoke coming from their chimney. Firefighters were called to the scene and discovered dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the house. The leak was caused by a malfunctioning oil burner. It was also noted by the firefighter who noticed the smoke that there were no working smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms in the house.

 

These incidents serve as unfortunate reminders that the winter months present a number of challenges to home safety, including increased use of heating equipment and the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning. These and other winter fire risks are addressed in our joint Put a Freeze on Winter Fires campaign with the U.S. Fire Administration, which provides a wealth of resources for reducing the risk of home heating fires and related hazards this season.

 

Carbon monoxide is created when fuel from heating or cooking equipment (typically gas, propane, or oil) doesn’t burn properly. Carbon monoxide is invisible, odorless, and colorless, and can be deadly. That’s why it’s so important have your home heating systems inspected and cleaned, if needed, before the start of the heating season to ensure that they’re working properly. CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area, on every level of the home, and in other locations where needed.

 

This past week, there were two unfortunate events on college campuses that have reminded us of the importance of campus fire safety. The first incident left 100 students displaced in an apartment fire in Pennsylvania, and the other sadly resulted in a student’s death at Reed College in Oregon.

 

NFPA encourages parents, college safety and fire officials to remind students of some basic steps they can take to ensure their safety when living off campus. In case of a fire emergency, it is crucial to have two ways out of a room. Fires can be unpredictable, so every student needs a backup plan in case their first route of escape is blocked. Having two viable exits is a great start, but it is equally important to develop and practice an evacuation plan. Then, if an emergency situation were to occur, students would be prepared to act and feel comfortable with the plan. Finally, we need to ensure that there are working smoke alarms  in each bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on each level of the house to warn students and give them as much time as possible to exit the building in case of a fire.  

 

For more information, checklists, tip sheets and other resources, visit NFPA’s campus fire safety webpage.

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