Another Hero needed because of an Indoor Gas Engine

Another hero was needed to prevent a fatal CO poisoning because of a gas engine (a compressor) being run indoors, this time in an attached garage.

By Rebecca Martin

“We are very lucky that she woke up in time to find the six-year-old and alert the fire department as well as the rest of the family members to wake up.” – Richard Broccolo, Paramedic Battalion Chief. Lucky because someone left a gas engine running indoors. An attached garage is indoors.

The hero of this story from Orange County Fire and Rescue occurred on Tuesday, May 9, 2023 in Orlando, Florida is the little girl’s13-year-old sister. The older sister woke up to find her 6-year-old sibling unresponsive and immediately alerted the household. Emergency services were contacted for the 6-year-old and upon arrival their portable carbon monoxide monitors sounded to the presence of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the home.

The other family members had begun to experience the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Though emergency responders were anticipating arriving at a medical emergency, the detection of carbon monoxide in the home enabled them to evacuate the other family members from the home where continued exposure to the levels of carbon monoxide could have proven fatal. All family members were transported to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment. While all were expected to survive, there continues to be significant ongoing risk of brain damage with exposures like you get from an indoor gas engine. Each of these family members should followup with urgent care or their family doctor if they have any delayed or continuing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

gas engine danger

The danger of running a gas engine indoors is catastrophic. Gas engines in generators and compressors are so dangerous, that even when put in a garage, they can kill in minutes.

The HazMat Team was called in to determine the source of the carbon monoxide emissions. They discovered a gas engine powered air compressor which had been running for several hours in the attached garage. The compressor had presumably been left running as a break-in period as the item had been recently purchased.

Warnings about Indoor Gas Engine During Hurricane Season

Broccolo also reminded Floridians that with hurricane season approaching to check batteries in carbon monoxide detectors and to practice generator safety by running generators at least 20 feet from the home.

Anything closer than 20 feet is essentially running the gas engine indoors. When you buy or rent a generator for emergency power, always make sure you get a long extension cord with it to ensure that the generator is at least 20 feet away from the home.

With the approach of hurricane weather, it is important to expand our awareness of emergency preparedness and nowhere is this more important than in the more vulnerable population, particularly the elderly or those who are hearing impaired. Making sure battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors are in place and properly maintained may be of little help if the home resident is unable to hear an alert. Hearing impairment may also affect one’s ability to understand instructions from first responders or communicate effectively.

            In all cases, it is important to have emergency plans in place. Preparing a go-bag and arranging a meeting place is a good first step. Coordinating with a neighbor to respond to a sounding alarm is also beneficial. Alarms can also be adjusted to sound at a different pitch or a higher amplification.

“Alerting devices—including smoke alarms for people with hearing loss—are available that use lower frequency sounds, emit a visual cue, or incorporate vibrotactile elements.”

            There are many emergency preparedness tips for the hearing impaired available at including links to smoke and carbon monoxide detectors specifically designed for those who are hearing impaired.

Too Many Heroes Needed Because of Gas Engines

Checking in with the elderly during emergencies can become an act of heroism. Such was the case April 3, 2023 in Lakeland, Minnesota when a welfare check resulted in finding an elderly couple unconscious in their home. The home had been without power. Deputies responding to the scene found a propane-powered generator running in a garage in the vicinity of a screen door and an empty propane heater in the living room. One deputy had to be treated at the scene for carbon monoxide exposure.

The couple had been trying to heat the home after losing power during a weekend snowstorm. When they failed to respond for a scheduled Monday morning appointment, a welfare check had been requested. Both were rushed to the hospital for evaluation and treatment.

Earlier this month the Kronenwetter Fire Department in Kronenwetter, Wisconsin, honored one of their own for his life-saving efforts.  Lieutenant Andy Toboyek had been off duty, seeing a movie at the Cedar Creek Cinema when he observed someone appearing to be suffering from carbon monoxide exposure and in need of medical attention. He was able to get the person medical attention and helped clear the theater when crews arrived. He was awarded a National Medal of Honor for his actions. Fire Chief O’Brien said Monday:

“Most firefighters, first responders would do anything to help whenever they can. That is what we are trained to do and in this case, Andy did just that and his efforts saved a life,”

            Earlier this year, a four-year-old boy named Grayson Taylor, from Monmouthshire in Wales, alerted his family to a faint beeping noise coming from a lower level in their home. Urging his parents to investigate, they discovered a carbon monoxide detector going off next to their wood burner. Described as a not overly loud alarm, his parents said Grayson’s quick thinking averted a potentially dangerous situation. Responders found carbon monoxide as a result of an open fire in the living area. Grayson was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II bravery award for his actions and is now ever diligent about checking his home’s alarm systems regularly. We can only imagine his interests may lie with becoming a first responder one day.

In all of these cases, prompt action upon the suspicion of carbon monoxide poisoning saved injuries and lives. If you suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, it is important to exit the premises and contact your local fire department. It is also important to monitor others during times of natural disasters, especially during power outages when generators and other unconventional methods are most likely to be in use.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *