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April 07. 2013 10:23PM

Company donates carbon monoxide detectors to Barrington

BARRINGTON - After a local couple died from carbon monoxide poisoning last month, a company that sells smoke alarms and CO detectors wanted to help the community.

David and Barbara Miller, both 61, were found dead in their home in March after they were exposed to a high level of carbon monoxide - about 500 parts per million - which probably came from their oven.

Fire Chief Rick Walker said most CO detectors sound an alarm with 35 parts per million of CO.

After an autopsy determined the Millers had high levels of CO, First Alert Inc., which is based in Aurora, Ill., offered to donate 100 digital CO detectors, which plug into an outlet and have a battery backup, as part of an educational outreach program.

After checking with selectmen, the town agreed to accept the donation,Walker said.

"We're very grateful," he said, He said the detectors will be distributed to residents in need through the general assistance offices at the town hall or via the food pantry.

CO detectors can also be purchased at hardware stores for about $20 to $30.

"We're going to target the most at risk, most in need residents," Walker said, adding many people, including many older residents, who live with fixed incomes, often must choose between food, heat or other essentials.

Walker said firefighters respond to about 20 incidents involving CO - a colorless, odorless and dangerous gas - around town each year, usually between the months of November and February.

"It's caused by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels," Walker said, adding CO can come from heaters, generators, furnaces or any other mechanical device.

Walker said some of the symptoms of CO poisoning are headaches, nausea and drowsiness.

He said all new homes and apartments in the state must have CO detectors, preferably one hard-wired into a system. He added one should be installed on every floor and especially near living spaces.

Despite the trend to require CO alarms, more than half of the homes in the U.S. do not have carbon monoxide alarms, according to a press release from First Alert.

"The key to it - much like smoke detectors - is it gives you an early warning," Walker said, adding this gives residents time to leave their home while firefighters respond.

"Unfortunately, elderly people usually are the last ones to seek help," Walker said.

jquinn@newstote.com


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