For Immediate Release
Press Contact: Gil Dong, Berkeley Fire Department Deputy Chief, (510) 981-5501

Lives depend on safe operation of heating, lighting equipment, says Berkeley Fire

Berkeley, California (Wednesday, January 14, 2009) - In the last several months, several tragedies and near-tragedies have brought attention to the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. In response, the City of Berkeley and the Berkeley Fire Department are reminding all community members to be aware of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning and take steps to take avoid exposure to carbon monoxide.

The most important step that renters and homeowners can take is to install a carbon monoxide detector. They generally cost between $25 to $50 from your local hardware store.

What is it and what happens? Carbon monoxide (CO) is a odorless and colorless gas that is produced by incomplete combustion of fuel, including wood, natural gas, oil, and kerosene.

Poisoning occurs when heating and lighting appliances are used inside a house, when gas appliances malfunction, or when furnaces or water heaters are improperly vented. Generators, stoves and lanterns are common culprits.

Carbon monoxide causes death by preventing the red blood cells from transporting oxygen to the rest of the body, organs, and tissue. Early symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and nausea. Exposure to high levels will lead to unconsciousness and/or death. 

How can it be prevented? In order to reduce exposure to CO, residents are encouraged to annually check their gas appliances and fireplaces for proper ventilation and operation and to never operate automobiles, gasoline, propane, or kerosene appliances or generators indoors. 

How does the Berkeley Fire Department respond? The fire department will respond to carbon monoxide alarm activations and each fire apparatus carries a CO detector to measure CO levels. 

The Berkeley Fire Department is also a leader in carbon monoxide (CO) detection and treatment in Alameda County. In 2008, the Department put cutting-edge carbon monoxide sensors into service on all of its paramedic ambulances.  If a patient is suspected of carbon monoxide exposure, their CO blood level can be determined and continuously monitored.

Severe carbon monoxide poisoning requires treatment in a hyperbaric chamber which is not available at most emergency departments.  With the use of their carbon monoxide sensors, Berkeley Fire Paramedics can determine the severity of the patient's exposure, provide necessary treatment in the field, and if necessary, transport the patient to an emergency department with a hyperbaric chamber such as Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.

For more information - please visit this California Air Resources Board web page: