July 30, 2013 – The South Toms River Volunteer First Aid Squad has recently installed four new single gas carbon monoxide detectors on all medical bags carried by EMS personnel in the department. These detectors were purchased by the squad via fundraising efforts.
CARBON MONOXIDE GAS – A BRIEF OVERVIEW:
Carbon monoxide or “CO” is a colorless, tasteless, odorless gas that may be deadly if present in a high enough concentration. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of the fuel burning process and the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. Many gas operated appliances such as heaters, dryers, stove tops, ovens, fireplaces and hot water heaters may produce carbon monoxide gas. When a faulty or unusual condition exists with any one of these appliances, carbon monoxide may be vented into a living space where people are present.
Carbon monoxide poisoning may be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms are similar to that of the flu which may include headache, nausea, fatigue, and dizzy spells. More serious symptoms include shortness of breath, vomiting, altered mental status, syncope and unconsciousness. Crews shall maintain a high index of suspicion for the presence of carbon monoxide gas when treating patients who present with the above mentioned symptoms, especially during the cold weather months.
EMS INTENT ON CARRYING CARBON MONOXIDE METERS:
The intent was when an EMS incident is dispatched that the monitors, which are continuously in the on position, would assist emergency medical responders in determining if there is carbon monoxide present while providing patient care.
The reason the Squad decided to equip their responders with this tool is because during hurricane sandy and the following winter storm the responders were exposed to potentially hazardous conditions that they were unaware of. Carbon Monoxide is a Colorless Odorless Gas which can be fatal with High Exposure.
There were two calls in which our agency responded, where homeowners were using gas appliances to heat their home during power outages causing the homeowners to feel ill. EMS responded to these homes and noticed signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Unfortunately this was after unknowingly placing themselves in a potentially dangerous situation and becoming exposed for a short period of time. In order to prevent this from occurring and to keep our responders safe the squad is now equipped with Single Gas CO Meters.
What these meters will do for responders is alert them of Low Readings 35ppm and High Readings 200ppm. At this time responders will react to their department policy , and will evacuate the residence with the patient if possible and notify the fire department for response with their more thorough gas meters.