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Tennessee Fire Marshal Warns of Carbon Monoxide Dangers When Camping

Tennessee Fire Marshal Warns of Carbon Monoxide Dangers When Camping

Even when enjoying the great outdoors in Tennessee, RV owners and people camping should be wary of the dangers that can arise from carbon monoxide in and around tents and RVs.

Often called “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas created when fuels (such as kerosene, gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. Carbon monoxide can result from a number of camping equipment, such as barbecue grills, portable generators or other fuel-powered devices.

“Carbon monoxide levels from barbecue grills or portable generators can increase quickly in enclosed spaces,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Campers should keep and use these items in well-ventilated areas to avoid fumes leaking into the openings or vents of RVs and tents.”

Tragedy struck four years ago in Clarksville, Tenn., when five campers died in their sleep when fumes from a generator seeped into their rented RV. The RV’s carbon monoxide detector, which could have prevented the deaths, was found to have no batteries.

As a result of this incident, rented RVs are now required by Tennessee law to have a functioning carbon monoxide detector before being leased for use. The law also holds RV rental companies responsible if they fail to document and test the CO detectors in their leased vehicles. (This law only applies to RV rentals.) It is still imperative that RV owners stay diligent in testing and changing the batteries of the carbon monoxide detectors in their own campers.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include headache, nausea and drowsiness. Extremely high levels of poisoning can be fatal, causing death within minutes. Anyone who suspects they are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning should immediately move to a fresh air location and call 9-1-1 or the fire department.

Important Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Tips for Camping

  • Only use barbecue grills outside, away from all doors, windows, vents and other shelter openings. Lit or smoldering barbecue grills should never be taken inside a home, tent, or RV.
  • Never use a fuel-powered lantern, heater or portable camping stove inside a home, tent or camper/RV.
  • Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from all doors, windows, vents and other building openings to prevent exhaust fumes from entering the home.
  • Install and maintain CO alarms inside homes, campers, and RVs to provide early warning of carbon monoxide.

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