At least six people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the wake of a massive blizzard that pounded the Eastern U.S. The deaths have many fire departments — including some in the D.C. area –reminding residents to clear their home and car exhausts of snow.
Many of the deaths happened as the victims worked to clear snow from a vehicle.
In New Jersey, 23-year-old Sashalynn Rosa, of Passaic, and her 1-year-old son, Messiah Bonilla, died of carbon monoxide poisoning while sitting in a running car that had its tailpipe covered in snow. Rosa’s 3-year-old daughter, Saniyah Bonilla, was hospitalized in critical condition and died on Jan. 27. The father of the children was just steps away shoveling snow from around the car.
Angel Ginel of New York died in a similar way Monday afternoon. Police say Ginel was found inside his running, plowed-in car in Brooklyn. His relatives believe he got inside the car to warm up Sunday, and the car got buried.
The Fairfax County Fire Department says a car’s exhaust pipe should be cleared before starting the vehicle. And while sitting inside to stay warm is tempting, you should not sit in a running car with the windows closed.
In addition to the tailpipes on vehicles, the exhaust pipes of furnaces, gas stoves and dryers should also be cleared whenever possible.
Seven residents of an apartment complex in Herndon, Virginia, were hospitalized after the complex’s ground floor furnace room had its vents completely blocked by snow.
Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be confused with “shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches.”
The NFPA suggests the following carbon monoxide safety tips:
- Use generators in a well-ventilated location that is outdoors and away from windows, doors and vent openings.
- Install CO alarms, especially in each sleeping areas.
- Test CO alarms at least once a month.
- If your CO alarm gies off, move to a location outdoors or by an open window or door.
- If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.