FAU death raises carbon monoxide poisoning awareness

Among serial killers, car accidents and heart disease is a killer that is as silent as it is deadly. Odorless, colorless and tasteless, this killer is hard to detect, yet it is the leading cause of death by poisoning in the United States.

When inhaled in copious amounts, carbon monoxide can cause brain damage, difficulty in breathing, memory impairment and death.

Carbon monoxide is produced when burning fuels such as gasoline, propane, oil and natural gas. While many areas go to great measures to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, a tragedy has hit close to home.

In late October, four students who attended Florida Atlantic University (FAU) were found dead in their off-campus apartment. Derek Smith and his three roommates had died from carbon monoxide poisoning sometime during the night.

Smith was a relative of Tech student Ross Taylor, a second year IE major and member of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

In response to this tragedy, Taylor’s father’s company, Taylor & Taylor Associates, as well as the Fireman Fund’s Insurance, have given the City of Atlanta Fire Department a $27,000 grant on behalf of Tech for carbon monoxide detectors.

The fire department plans to use $22,000 to buy these detectors and distribute them, free of charge, to Tech students who live in off-campus apartments or in Greek housing which may not necessarily have a detector already installed. The remaining $5,000 will be used on safety programs for children.

“I think raising awareness about this issue is pretty key especially since it affected me personally and I’m very glad that these two companies decided to help in this issue,” said Taylor.

A ceremony will be held on Dec. 4 at Pi Kappa Phi at 10:00 a.m. Representatives from the Atlanta Fire Department will visit Tech’s campus to install several of the carbon monoxide detectors.

The following week, the detectors will be distributed to off campus apartments, specifically Home Park. Greek houses that do not already have detectors will receive some as well.

“We want to encourage people to install the detectors once they receive them to be safe,” said Mike Roche, fifth-year BME major and president of Pi Kappa Phi.

Tech’s on-campus housing has carbon monoxide detectors in all its mechanical rooms which are checked on a regular basis by the housing staff.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in off-campus housing, carbon monoxide (CO) alarms can be installed inside the home in a central location to provide early warning of accumulating CO.

Next, call the local fire department’s non-emergency number to find out what number to call in the event that the CO alarm does sound. Post that number in a conspicuous location, indicating the difference between the fire emergency and CO emergency numbers. Alarms should be tested on a monthly basis.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when vehicles are left running in spaces that are not well ventilated. Don’t leave a vehicle on when it is parked in a garage or covered in snow.

Cars should be removed immediately from the garage after starting them. Vehicles, generators and other fueled engines or motor should never be run indoors, even if a garage door is open to the exterior. Initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include headaches, sleepiness, confusion, fatigue or dizziness.