(From a Chicago community member)
This past Shabbos morning (the third day of the “three day Yom Tov”) I was awakened by the sound of the carbon monoxide alarm announcing high levels. We immediately cleared everyone out of the house and had the fire department summoned. When they arrived, they informed me that the cause of the high carbon monoxide levels was due to leaving the stove and oven on over Yom Tov and Shabbos. The buildup of these dangerous fumes was not due to a faulty gas line or leaking appliances, but rather to the lack of adequate ventilation.
The constant burning of the gas range and oven – even on a low flame, will over time emit unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide. I was told that the fire department was tending to many such calls over the last few days. The firemen implored me to please tell the Rabbis and announce to the community that if people need to leave on the stove or oven over the holidays, they must ensure that the area is properly ventilated. Turning on an exhaust fan or opening windows can prevent terrible danger.
I would also like to stress the importance of a carbon monoxide detector. They are not expensive and often come together with the smoke alarm. (Ed: Available on Amazon for less than $20. The effective life of a carbon monoxide detector is only 5 years. 10 years for smoke detectors, depending on technology) I would not want to think what our Shabbos would have been like had we not had the alarm- especially since the gas travels upward and the levels upstairs where everyone was sleeping were much higher.
I have been told that in some communities there are public announcements to alert people to take the necessary precautions. I would like to suggest that along with other public service announcements such as Eiruv Tavshilin, this announcement should be added as well.
Thank you, and may the Shomer Yisrael bless us with a healthy and happy year.
(Ed: Read on for more information from the Teaneck community)
Two years ago 13 people in Teaneck were taken to the hospital to be treated for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, due to a stove that had been left on for two days during the holiday of Shavuot.
Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, colorless and potentially deadly gas causing headaches, dizziness, redness in the face, nausea, and flu like symptoms. The risk is intensified because modern houses today are better insulated with fewer air leaks than in the past, and with the air conditioning on, windows are usually kept closed.
Safety tips: Authorities offer the following recommendations:
* All homes should have working carbon monoxide detectors. Authorities recommend homes have one on each level.
* Leave the home and call the fire department if your carbon monoxide detector goes off. Rabbis advise that it is permissible to call on the Sabbath and holidays to avoid any risk to life.
* If a family must use a gas stove or oven for extended periods, leave a nearby window open 4 inches (about the size of a fist) and also open a window at the opposite end of the house for cross ventilation. Note: If you leave a burner on with an open window or fan, check to be sure a breeze doesn’t blow out a flame set on the low setting. Then you’d have gas running without a flame, which can cause a fire or explosion.
* Consider alternatives to using the gas stove/oven such as an electric oven with a warming drawer, or a hot plate or crock pot, which do not emit carbon monoxide.
* Do not keep any flammable items within 1 foot of the stove or crock pot.
* Do not use an extension cord with electric cooking devices.
* Homes should have a hood above the stove that is vented outside. A hood that is vented into the kitchen does not help reduce carbon monoxide.
Sources: Teaneck Fire Department and Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps