Education Campaign Launched to Warn Responders of Occupational Hazards of Carbon Monoxide

Dec. 3, 2010
Masimo, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) have launched “The Silent Killer” educational campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the duty-related dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and reducing the known risk factors that unnecessarily kill or injure fire fighters each year.

The new health and safety campaign includes a dramatic, 6-minute video that highlights the immediate and long-term health risks associated with CO exposure, the emotional impact these risks can have on fire fighters and their families and advocates proper prevention strategies. The video can be viewed online at and DVDs will be distributed to fire departments throughout the world.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a danger at every fire, and often is present without symptoms, making awareness, proper diagnosis and treatment difficult. This puts fire fighters on the scene of a fire at significant risk because even mild CO poisoning can rob the brain of oxygen, which can lead to poor decision making. It also can rob the heart, brain and vital organs of oxygen, causing life-threatening complications (half of on-duty fire fighter deaths are attributed to heart attacks or stroke). Just one severe CO poisoning almost doubles the long-term risk of death.

“CO is a significant and deadly occupational risk factor for fire fighters,” said Harold A. Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “We know that carbon monoxide (CO) is present in every fire and symptoms of CO poisoning are nonspecific and easy to miss. Any fire fighter potentially exposed to CO and presenting with headache, nausea, shortness of breath or gastrointestinal symptoms should be assessed.”

The education campaign urges fire fighters to take personal responsibility for their health and safety by recognizing the occupational hazards of CO exposure and wearing protective masks during both active fire and overhaul operations to prevent unnecessary risks. It also encourages fire fighters to get their CO levels tested on the fire scene with an approved noninvasive portable device and, if elevated, to seek immediate treatment, even if they are feeling well.

The video was produced and narrated by Randolph Mantooth, widely recognized for his portrayal of Los Angeles County fire fighter/paramedic “Johnny Gage” in the popular 1970s NBC Universal television series “Emergency!”

“Too many of our fire rescuers and first responders do not believe they too are in danger and, consequently, do not adequately protect themselves from becoming unknowing victims of CO poisoning,” said Mantooth, a vocal advocate for CO awareness and prevention since his own near-death CO experience 20 years ago, “That’s why it has become my mission to ensure that each and every fire fighter and emergency first responder knows and understands these significant occupational hazards, how to properly protect themselves, and how to prevent unnecessary health risks to improve the odds that they will be around tomorrow to do what they were born to do.”

IAFC President and Chairman of the Board, Chief Jack Parow, stated: “We are pleased to be a part of this important educational campaign. Carbon monoxide is a real risk that fire fighters and first responders face every day. With the proper awareness, precautions and testing, we can prevent firefighter deaths and extend lives.”

The IAFC will be assisting with distribution of the video, including sending complimentary copies of the video to its membership. “As with many issues, education is the key to success,” continued Parow.

Masimo founder and CEO, Joe Kiani added, “We know that the more successful this campaign is in reaching and educating them about the hidden dangers and risks of carbon monoxide poisoning, the fewer of our heroes will become victims and have their lives shortened by carbon monoxide poisoning.”

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