Catching a Silent Killer; New Device Alerts Firefighters To Danger

At approximately 1:08 p.m. on Sunday, October 23, units from Fire Station 27, West Springfield, responded to a home for the report of a patient feeling weak and lightheaded. As fire and rescue personnel entered the home, their new ToxiRAE 3 monitor, placed on the top velcro strap of all heart monitors, went into alarm immediately warning crews of the presence of Carbon Monoxide (CO). The home did not have any CO alarms present.

CO is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas caused by incomplete combustion of many common household appliances when not properly ventilated. Early signs and symptoms of a person suffering from CO exposure can be mistaken for flu like symptoms, (i.e. headache, nausea, and fatigue). Prolonged exposure can lead to brain damage and even death.

The ToxiRAE 3 monitors were placed on Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department fire trucks and ambulances in early September 2016. This incident demonstrates how a successful use of these meters combined with a well-trained crew can prevent a much more serious 911 call. In this instance, there were three other adults in the home (in addition to the patient) who would have remained in the home after the crew had left with the patient. With no CO alarms in the home, the three remaining residents would be have been unaware of the potentially life threatening danger.

It is believed this is the first CO alarm “save” since the monitors were placed on our units.