With summer upon us, it’s a good time to remind power boaters about the dangers of carbon monoxide.
Many less experienced vacation boaters may not even be aware of the dangers that they need to guard against to protect themselves, their friends and families. More experienced boaters need to heed these warnings too.
The following is from the United States Coast Guard Boating Safety Web site concerning the dangers of carbon monoxide, www.uscgboating.org/command/
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. It is produced when a carbon-based fuel — such as gasoline, propane, charcoal, or oil — burns. Sources on your boat may include engines, gas generators, cooking ranges, and space and water heaters.
Why is it so dangerous?
Carbon monoxide enters your bloodstream through the lungs, blocking the oxygen your body needs. Prolonged exposure to low concentrations or very quick exposure to high concentrations can kill you.
Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness. They are often confused with seasickness or intoxication, so those affected may not receive the medical attention they need.
Altitude, certain health-related problems, and age will increase the effects of carbon monoxide. Persons who smoke or are exposed to high concentrations of cigarette smoke, consume alcohol, or have lung disorders or heart problems are particularly susceptible to an increase in the effects from carbon monoxide. However, anyone can be affected. Another factor to consider is that physical exertion accelerates the rate at which the blood absorbs CO.
Emergency Treatment for CO Poisoning:
Carbon monoxide poisoning or toxicity is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate action.
The following is a list of things that should be done if carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected.
— Proceed with caution. The victim may be in an area of high carbon monoxide concentration, which means you or others could be in danger from exposure to it.
— Evaluate the situation and ventilate the area if possible.
— Evacuate the area and move affected person(s) to a fresh air environment. Observe the victim(s).
— Administer oxygen, if available.
— Contact medical help. If the victim is not breathing, perform rescue breathing or approved cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), as appropriate, until medical help arrives. Prompt action can mean the difference between life and death.
— Shut off potential sources of carbon monoxide, if possible. Correct ventilation problems and/or repair exhaust problems as appropriate.
— Investigate the source of CO and take corrective action, such as evacuating and ventilating the area or shutting off the source of the CO, while at the same time evacuating and ventilating the area.
How to protect yourself and others:
— Know where and how carbon monoxide may accumulate in and around your boat. Information and illustrations can be found at www.uscgboating.org/ command/co/accu mulate.htm/.
— Maintain fresh air circulation throughout the boat at all times. Run exhaust blowers whenever the generator is operating.
— Know where your engine and generator exhaust outlets are located and keep everyone away from these areas.
— Never sit, teak surf, or hang on the back deck or swim platform while the engines are running. Teak surfing is never a safe activity.
— Never enter areas under swim platforms where exhaust outlets are located unless the area has been properly ventilated.
Although carbon monoxide can be present without the smell of exhaust fumes, if you smell exhaust fumes, CO is also present. Take immediate action to dissipate these fumes.
— Treat symptoms of seasickness as possible CO poisoning. Get the person into fresh air immediately. Seek medical attention, unless you’re sure it’s not CO.
— Install and maintain CO alarms inside your boat. Do not ignore any alarm. Replace alarms as recommended by the alarm manufacturer.
— Follow the checklists provided on the U.S. Coast Guard site, www.uscgboating.org/.
— Get a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) — a free bow-to-stern safety examination.
Where may carbon monoxide accumulate?
Carbon monoxide can accumulate anywhere in or around your boat. Details and illustrations available at www.uscg boat ing.org/command/co/accumlate .htm/.