Posted by: Mark Polk | 8:26 am

RV 101 – RV Carbon Monoxide Winter Safety & Awareness

Twice a year, at a minimum, I like to address carbon monoxide safety & awareness. In the springtime when prime camping season is upon us, and again when winter approaches and folks are firing up the furnace and portable heaters.

Carbon monoxide (CO) gas is invisible, odorless, and deadly! Because it is invisable and odorless it is coined “The Silent Killer”. Carbon monoxide is produced by the partial combustion of solid, liquid and gaseous fuels. This includes gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, wood, & coal.

It is extremely serious when combustion by-products are not vented outside, or when you are exposed to any source of CO gas. Carbon Monoxide is the number one cause of poisoning deaths each year. Carbon monoxide poisoning is toxic and can be deadly to both humans and animals. CO poisoning occurs after enough carbon monoxide gas is inhaled. The severity of the CO poisoning depends on the level of CO gas you are exposed to, and the duration of the exposure.

The good news is the threat of CO poisoning can be lessened through awareness and education. Let’s take a look at what we can do to prevent the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

When it comes to RVs and camping carbon monoxide gas usually results from:

  •  Exhaust leaks from either a vehicle engine or a generator.
  • Improper use of portable gas powered heaters.
  • Someone else’s vehicle or generator when camping in close quarters.
  • Malfunctioning or unvented LP gas appliances

First of all if your RV doesn’t have a carbon monoxide detector you need to purchase a battery operated carbon monoxide detector designed for use in RVs. Next, test the carbon monoxide detector every time you use the RV and replace the carbon monoxide detector batteries when you change clocks for daylight savings time.

Important CO prevention tips:

  •  Inspect the generator exhaust system before using the generator, every time.
  •  Avoid leaving windows down and roof vents open when in close proximity to vehicle and/or generator exhaust.
  • Follow all directions and safety cautions and warnings when operating gas powered heaters.
  • If you use a portable generator direct the exhaust well away from the camping area.
  • Never use the range burners or oven to heat the RV.
  • When cooking with the range burners use the range top fan & leave a window cracked open for fresh air and ventilation.
  • If somebody camping in close proximity to you is running a generator go and ask them to turn it off. They might be upset with your request, but it can save lives.

 Teach everybody with you how to recognize carbon monoxide symptoms. Carbon monoxide symptoms are similar to flu symptoms, but without the fever.

CO symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  •  Vomiting
  •  Nausea
  •  Muscular twitching
  •  Intense headache
  •  Throbbing in the temples
  •  Weakness and sleepiness
  •  Inability to think coherently

If you or anyone else experiences any of these symptoms take the following action:

Shut the vehicle, generator or source of the CO poisoning down and do not operate it again until it has been inspected and repaired by a professional.

  • Get to fresh air immediately
  • Account for everybody that is with you
  • Call 911 for emergency assistance
  • Do not re-enter the RV
  • If the symptoms persist seek medical attention.

For more information on CO safety and awareness take a minute to visit these sites:

RV Safety DVD

RV Safety E-Book

Enjoy your RV this winter in safety,

Mark J. Polk

RV Education 101

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Copyright by Mark Polk owner of RV Education 101 – all rights reserved


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