SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and its law enforcement arm, the Illinois Conservation Police, are reminding hunters, boaters, and campers to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) while enjoying these outdoor activities.
In 2008, Conservation Police Officers responded to two separate incidents on houseboats that led to the deaths of five people. In both cases, older model generators on board the vessels were leaking carbon monoxide into the living quarters of the boats. The incidents in Southern and Central Illinois were the first reported carbon monoxide fatalities on board watercraft in Illinois in the last six years according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics.
“Just as they are recommended in your home, it’s always a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector on your boat or in your camper. CO is colorless and odorless, and often isn’t detected until it’s too late,” said Illinois Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez.
Many carbon monoxide deaths occur during colder months when windows and doors are locked up at night leaving little or no ventilation inside.
Carbon monoxide accidents can happen in boat cabins because, in most cases, these areas are small enclosures, but there are other places where precautions need to be taken. Small hunting cabins, campers, and hunting blinds where a kerosene heater or internal combustion engine may be used for warmth are also places where people need to take precautions.
“One of the biggest mistakes people make with these types of generators, motors, and heaters is installing parts like hoses and seals not made for the heating equipment they are using,” said Conservation Police Sergeant and Illinois Boating Law Administrator Joe Morelock.
“Not using parts authorized by the manufacturer can cause these units to leak and not work properly and put people in a dangerous situation,” said Morelock.
Illinois Conservation Police offer the following tips when using heating devices:
• Make sure your equipment such as generators, internal combustion engines, or any heater that burns petroleum products are vented and maintained properly.
• Always have a working carbon monoxide detector in any enclosure where people will be.
• Always use replacement parts or components intended solely for the equipment being used.
• Make sure the area you are in is ventilated at all times.
According to the National Safety Council, an estimated 300 people die each year in the United States from carbon monoxide poisoning, while thousands more are sickened by the gas. Many victims are overcome in their sleep, unaware of the elevated carbon monoxide levels in their homes.