FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. -- In a Paramedic's bag you might expect to find rubber gloves, bandages, medical masks, anything that might help them in an emergency.
Now, EMTs in Forsyth County are adding something new to their kits - carbon monoxide detectors.
About 400 people die each year from Carbon Monoxide poisoning and an estimated 20,000 go to the ER after inhaling the deadly gas. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC calls Carbon Monoxide the silent killer because it's colorless, odorless and nearly impossible to detect without a detector.
2 Wants to Know found out Forsyth County EMTs have started carrying carbon monoxide detectors in their bags. It's the only agency 2WTK found in the Triad doing so.
With help from a grant, Forsyth County Emergency Services bought 30 detectors for $6,000. That's enough for each ambulance to have a detector.
The devices are always on and send out an alert when the gas is detected at 35 parts per million (ppm). According to OSHA, an adult can handle that much of the gas over an 8 hour period. Another alarm goes off if the carbon monoxide level reaches 50 ppm. At that point, it's time for the EMTs to leave the contaminated area.
Daren Zigler, Assistant Chief of Forsyth County Emergency Services, says the agency has been thinking about getting these detectors for some time. An incident at a Clemmons restaurant last December really put their plan into action. More than a dozen people went to the hospital and even more were treated on scene after first responders found carbon monoxide levels in the restaurant to be 6-times the normal amount.
Zigler says EMTs will respond to non-emergency sick calls where a person says they just don't feel good. He says that's how complaints about carbon monoxide poisoning can start. That's why he says these new detectors are not only safe for the EMTs but also the people they serve.