First, let me explain a little about my background. I have served in both the fire service and law enforcement and am retired from them. During my working life I have seen people die from lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
During cold periods I have helped carry out the bodies of people who died as a result of improvised heating systems. Some died from carbon monoxide poisoning and some from smoke inhalation or burns. The majority of these people could have survived if they had had a smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
During a TEOTWAWKI situation, many of us plan to bug in and depending on the time of year may be forced to use improvised heating systems. May of these systems will involve open flames and we will have to live in confined areas without adequate ventilation.
Both of these conditions are conducive to causing fires or carbon monoxide buildups. We all know that flame and smoke will kill us, but many of us do not understand just how quick and deadly carbon monoxide can be.
Carbon monoxide or CO is a toxic gas, but because it is colorless, odorless, tasteless, it is very difficult for most people to detect. Exposures at 100 parts per million (ppm) or greater can be hazardous. Carbon monoxide is not toxic in the usual sense. Carbon monoxide like oxygen combines with the hemoglobin in your blood. When it combines with the blood, it forms a complex called carboxy-hemoglobin which starves the blood of oxygen. This results in internal suffocation.
Breathing a concentration of 1600 (ppm) can kill a normal person in two hours. Carbon monoxide is not heavier than air. The diffusion of carbon monoxide in air is relatively even, meaning carbon monoxide is distributed evenly throughout the area. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.
Carbon monoxide is produced by gasoline or diesel operated motors and improperly vented fires and heaters. People are often exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning at night when sleeping. Most people that are subject to carbon monoxide poisoning in their sleep never wake up. They die in their sleep. I have seen this result from faulty heating systems, using charcoal to heat homes and the use of heaters in tents. A case occurred when a family was using a generator in a garage to power their home. The children went to sleep with the generator running; the parents were in another part of the home. The fumes filtered into the children’s bedroom killing them.
Carbon Monoxide poisoning is responsible for approximately 15,000 hospital emergency visits and nearly 500 deaths annually in the United States. This is when most people have good modern heating systems.
After TEOTWAWKI, the numbers of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning will increase as people use improvised systems. I would strongly recommend that you have good battery operated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home or your bugout location. Good working smoke or carbon monoxide detectors may not only save your life, it may alert you to a small fire in time to save your home and preps.