Carbon Monoxide Safety

Carbon monoxide (CO), often called "the silent killer," is a colorless, odorless gas produced when fuels such as:

  • Coal Burn Incompletely
  • Gasoline
  • Kerosene
  • Natural Gas
  • Oil
  • Propane
  • Wood

Home heating and cooking appliances that use fuel can be potential sources for carbon monoxide; vehicles or generators that are run in an attached garage can also be a source of dangerous levels.


A person's susceptibility to CO depends on a number of factors, including age, health, and activity level. Pregnant women and people with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to process oxygen (i.e., emphysema, asthma, heart disease), can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than an otherwise healthy adult would be.

Exposure & Symptoms

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur over a long period of exposure to low concentrations of the gas, or a short period of exposure to a high concentration. Symptoms can appear gradually and can mimic symptoms of the flu or other illness. To protect yourself and your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, there are several steps you can take:

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, with at least one outside every sleeping area (required by Rhode Island Fire Code). Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and mounting.
  • If your heating system runs on any type of fuel, have it cleaned and inspected annually by a licensed professional.
  • If you must warm your vehicle, immediately move it out of the garage after starting it.
  • Never run a generator or other gas-powered appliance inside the house or an attached garage; simply opening the garage door does not reduce the level of CO inside the structure. Use them in a well-ventilated area away from any open doors or windows.
  • Gas and charcoal grills also produce CO; never use them inside the house.
  • If your CO alarm sounds, move everyone in the house outdoors to an area of fresh air and contact the Fire Department by dialing 911. Do not re-enter the house until told it is safe to do so.

If you have any questions about purchasing or installing carbon monoxide detectors for your home, we will be more than happy to advise you on proper locations or acceptable types of units. As with smoke detectors, we can also assist the elderly or infirm with the installation. Please call the Fire Department at 401-846-1031 with any questions.


  • National Fire Protection Association