Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, highly toxic gas that is undetectable to the human senses. It is a by-product of combustion, present whenever fuel is burned: wood, natural gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, oil, coal, charcoal, propane, kerosene, etc.

Here are some things that you should know about CO:
  • Carbon monoxide displaces oxygen in the blood, which causes the brain, heart, muscles, tissues and organs to become oxygen starved.
  • Being an odorless gas, victims may become disoriented before they are aware that they are in any danger, not allowing them to call for help or exit the premises.
  • Symptoms can mimic a common cold, a hangover, food poisoning, depression, or flu (without body ache or fever).
  • If you or any of your family members suspect an illness due to carbon monoxide call 911.
  • Most commonly carbon monoxide poisoning comes from the malfunction of the following household appliances: gas stove, gas clothes dryer, furnace, gas water heater and a fireplace.
  • This usually could be avoided with the proper installation, maintenance (which includes yearly inspections) and the proper usage of the appliance.

The best way to protect you and your family is to have a UL approved carbon monoxide detector installed on every level of your home.  Carbon monoxide detectors along with smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are the most important life safety devices that no home should be without. 

Wisconsin’s new carbon monoxide (CO) law will help ensure safe homes with the presence of CO alarms. But Fire and Carbon Monoxide Prevention starts with education about this new law.
  • All single family and two-unit homes – new and existing – must install a CO alarm on every floor level, near sleeping areas.
  • New construction must be hard-wired with a battery back-up.
  • Existing homes may install any type of CO alarms; battery, plug-in, or combination smoke/CO devices.
  • A carbon monoxide detector required under this section shall bear an Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., listing mark.
  • The law took effect February 1, 2011.
  • Alarms should be installed in accordance with directions from manufacturer.
  • CO alarms are only required in new and existing homes that have any fuel burning appliance, which includes: stoves, ovens, grills, clothes dryers, furnaces, boilers, water heaters, fireplaces and heaters OR an attached garage.
  • Alarms do not need to be installed in the attic, garage or storage area of homes.
  • Test alarms monthly.
  • Replace alarms according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Check batteries and replace twice a year.
  • Alarms should never be disconnected or unplugged.
  • Batteries should never be removed for other uses.
This information based on Wisconsin Act 158 and Wisconsin Department of Safety & Professional Services
Wausau Fire Department has a limited number of carbon monoxide detectors available for City of Wausau homeowners.  Please call 715-261-7900 or visit the Central Fire Station, 606 E. Thomas Street for more information or to see if you qualify.