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First Alert, a company specializing in home security and safety equipment, is donating more than 400 carbon monoxide detectors to 30 fire departments across Minnesota in an effort to raise awareness of the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)

Cottage Grove fire receives CO detector donation

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It is a colorless, odorless, invisible killer that claims the lives of more than 2,000 people annually, but taking a moment to install a carbon monoxide detector can save thousands more.

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In an effort to help spread awareness of the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning, First Alert, a company specializing in home security and safety equipment, has donated more than 400 carbon monoxide detectors to 30 fire departments across Minnesota.

The Cottage Grove Fire Department will soon receive a 12-pack of new detectors.

“With the season changing, boilers being fired up, and more people using fireplaces and stove tops, it’s a good time to remind people to change out their detectors,” St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said Tuesday.

Zaccard, a Cottage Grove resident, said departments across the state are ramping up education and reminding homeowners of the Minnesota Carbon Dioxide Statute, commonly referred to as Hannah’s Law, a state law requiring all residential dwellings to install carbon monoxide detectors within 10 feet of a bedroom or other sleeping area.

The law, which took effect in 2007, was enacted after a 3-year-old Rochester, Minn., girl named Hannah Griggs died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The family did not have any detectors in their home.

Since then, Minnesota has become a leader in providing educational resources to protect its citizens from a tragedy that Zaccard said can be prevented.

“There are plug-in detectors with battery backups, you can place them high or low,” he explained. “Carbon monoxide is just slightly lighter than air so it doesn’t matter where it goes.”

With 2013 being the sixth year since the passage of Hannah’s Law, Zaccard added it  coincides with the lifespan of a typical carbon monoxide detector.

“On average, these detectors last between five and seven years,” he explained. “It’s a good time to remember to check the alarms and replace them, even if it’s not beeping.”

A good rule of thumb Zaccard added is “when you change your clocks, change your (detector’s) batteries.”

On average, Cottage Grove Fire Marshal PJ McMahon said the department responds to 20 to 40 calls for carbon monoxide leaks annually, many of which are false alarms.

“I’d rather respond to the 90 percent that are false alarms than miss out on the 10 percent that aren’t,” Zaccard said.

A Newport man died last month after being exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide emitted from a gas-powered stump grinder in his garage. While the death was accidental, Zaccard said it is important to know the signs and symptoms of exposure.

“First you’ll get a headache and become flushed,” he explained. “Then you might feel nauseated and begin to get flu-like symptoms. But the longer you are exposed and the higher the concentration of carbon monoxide, the worse it becomes.”

The main sources of carbon monoxide emissions in homes are gas-powered stoves and fireplaces, and other fuel-burning appliances. Zaccard said a blue flame on those pieces of equipment is ideal.

“If you feel these symptoms, get out and call 911,” he added.

Chris Hester, representing First Alert, said the Cottage Grove Fire Department should receive its detectors within the next week and have discretion as to how the detectors are distributed.

Newport and St. Paul Park fire departments did not receive carbon monoxide detectors because Hester said they were awarded to departments based on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“Not only is it a law to install detectors in your home but it’s also the right thing to do,” Zaccard said. “It can save your family.”

For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning and symptoms, visit the Minnesota Department of Health website: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/co/.

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Emily Buss
Emily Buss joined the South Washington County Bulletin in February 2013. She covers local government in Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park and Newport, along with other general assignment reporting. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
(651) 459-4629
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