Skip to Content

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Although carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are not required by law in our facilities, Housing & Residence Life has completed the process of installing detectors in all residence halls where combustion devices are located. In areas already wired for a central fire detection system the CO detectors are hard-wired, and in other areas the detectors are battery-operated and inspected monthly.

Housing residents are asked to keep in mind that not all areas have the potential to be exposed to carbon monoxide. In addition, many devices are located in areas that are only accessible to maintenance staff, so just because you do not see a device doesn't mean you are not protected.

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about carbon monoxide:

  • What is carbon monoxide?

    CO is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning any fuel. Oil and gas furnaces produce CO. Other common sources of CO include gas appliances (stoves, water heaters, etc.), charcoal or gas grills, wood stoves and fireplaces, automobiles, lawnmowers and other gas-powered tools.

  • What is the effect of exposure to CO?

    When inhaled, CO binds to red blood cells and starves the body of oxygen. Exposure to high levels of CO may cause headache, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, dizziness, weakness, convulsions, loss of consciousness, and death. The symptoms of CO poisoning may be mistaken for other illnesses, such as the flu or alcohol poisoning. Very high concentrations of CO can cause loss of consciousness in only a few breaths.

  • How do CO detectors work?

    CO detectors periodically measure how much CO has accumulated, and display a digital readout of the concentration in parts per million (ppm). They sound a loud alarm before the concentration of CO becomes high enough for adults to experience symptoms.

  • What do I do if the alarm sounds?

    1. Evacuate immediately to fresh air.
    2. From another area, call 911 to report the problem.
    3. Do not re-enter the building until staff indicates it is safe to do so.

    Emergency personnel and University staff will measure CO levels and determine the necessary course of action. CO monitors are designed to minimize the occurrence of false alarms, so treat all alarms as the real thing.

  • What happens if we lose power?

    Some detectors are battery-operated and will not be affected by a loss of power. For hard-wired detectors, the system is equipped with a backup battery that will provide power to the monitor for several hours.