What to Do if your Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off

A carbon monoxide detector will alert you if the odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas is in your home. If detected, immediately evacuate and call 911.
Written by Nick Kunze
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that is undetectable without an alarm. If your carbon monoxide alarm goes off, you should evacuate your home and call 911.
Carbon monoxide is something to take very seriously. This colorless, odorless, and tasteless poison can cause serious injury or death when inhaled. To keep you safe from this deadly gas, all houses should be equipped with alarm systems. If carbon monoxide is present, these alarms will go off—potentially saving your life. 
This guide from car and
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will help you learn about carbon monoxide and what to do if your carbon monoxide detector goes off. 
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What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced by burning fuels like gasoline, propane, oil, wood, and more. Carbon Monoxide is the byproduct of incomplete combustion—that means if there’s fire, there’s CO.
Carbon Monoxide is known as the silent killer because it is scentless, colorless, and tasteless. This makes it undetectable by a human. However, inhaling Carbon Monoxide can lead to serious medical complications or even death, so it is incredibly important that you are aware if it is in your house. 

Where does carbon monoxide come from?

Carbon monoxide can be produced by many household appliances. Here are a few possible culprits for carbon monoxide in the home:
  • A malfunctioning or incorrectly installed fuel-burning appliance
  • Furnaces, gas stoves, space heaters, and fireplaces 
  • Vehicles running in enclosed garages
  • A blocked chimney
  • A propane grill used inside
It is important to be vigilant and make sure that none of these potential hazards are in your home. Never leave a car running in a closed garage and never use a propane grill inside. Additionally, perform frequent checks of gas-burning appliances to ensure that they are functioning properly. 

Are there symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning has noticeable symptoms. If you notice a sudden onset of headaches, nausea, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms without any other indications of sickness, you may have been exposed to CO. As your exposure extends, you may experience confusion and a faster heart rate. 
Extreme exposure leads to the potential for unconsciousness and brain damage. High exposure to CO eventually leads to heart and lung failure, which will cause death.

How to prevent CO poisoning 

Homeowners need to protect themselves against Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Here are a few ways you can keep yourself and your family safe.

Install a carbon monoxide detector 

This is an absolute must for all homeowners. A carbon monoxide alarm can detect CO in the air, alerting you if you’re in danger.
Install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and in all bedrooms.
Be sure to test your alarms regularly by holding down the test button until you hear two beeps. Then, release your finger and hold down the button again until you hear four beeps. This will indicate a working alarm. 

Inspect your home

Regularly check your home and its appliances to make sure everything is safe. Get your heating system and chimney examined by a professional to ensure it is working properly and any gas burned can escape. 
Being vigilant and knowledgeable about your home is a great way to protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning.

What should I do if my carbon monoxide alarm goes off?

A carbon monoxide detector can save your life. Here’s what to do if your carbon monoxide alarm begins to ring.
  • As long as it is safe to, get out of the house and into fresh air
  • If anyone is experiencing symptoms, call an ambulance
  • Call the fire department to examine your home 
Never ignore your carbon monoxide alarm!

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Yes, you should have your carbon monoxide alarm checked regularly.
It’s recommended to self-test your CO alarm weekly (once a month at the very least). To do so, hold the “test” button on your carbon monoxide alarm and wait to hear two beeps. Then press again—this time you should wait to hear four beeps.
If your carbon monoxide alarm goes off, you should act as if there is an emergency! Get out of the house and into fresh air. Then call the fire department.
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