In December 2014, a community hockey game in Delton, Wisconsin, was canceled due to an unlikely and unforeseen threat. The culprit was a colorless, odorless gas that's present in almost every commercial or residential building - carbon monoxide.
Athletic Business reported that the incident in Delton resulted in 81 people being treated at the hospital for carbon monoxide-related injury and illness. With so many people directly affected at once, the importance of preventing carbon monoxide leaks that can lead to illness has been emphasized for facility managers. It may not always be at the front of your mind, but failure to properly control carbon monoxide emissions in your building can create serious problems for your tenants.
What is carbon monoxide?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration pointed out that carbon monoxide presents a particular safety hazard because it is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Unlike other potentially dangerous gas or chemical leaks, carbon monoxide is all but undetectable, meaning administrators and facility managers may not realize they have an issue until people start getting sick. While particularly common in industrial facilities, almost all buildings have the potential to be exposed to carbon monoxide - cars, for example, give off the gas as part of their regular emissions. Thus even if you work in a commercial or community facility, carbon monoxide prevention and response should be a consideration.
The effects of carbon monoxide
Despite its nearly undetectable nature, carbon monoxide - more commonly referred to by its chemical formula CO - can have serious effects on humans. OSHA reported that common symptoms of exposure to CO can include chest pain, nausea, drowsiness or vomiting. These symptoms will worsen as the exposure is prolonged. Seniors, children and those with existing medical conditions - especially those that affect the heart or lungs - are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Do you have a plan?
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a serious and potentially fatal health risk. It's essential that your organization devises a comprehensive response plan as part of its crisis response effort, so that all building personnel know exactly what to do and where to go in the event of CO exposure. Tools that can help make them accessible are invaluable for controlling such unforeseen situations. FacilityDude's Crisis Plan can provide administrators and facility managers with a centralized and accessible way to create, update and share such a plan in real time.