Firefighters inform boaters of carbon monoxide danger

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Firefighters and officials from East Pierce Fire and Rescue have been canvassing the waters of Lake Tapps as part of a continued effort to educate the public about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and the importance of wearing life jackets.

To help raise awareness, the fire department has been distributing bumper stickers and brochures to boaters on area launches and going boat to boat on Lake Tapps.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced by powerboats. Because it stays close to the water, accumulating under the boat's swim platform and in enclosed cabins, many swimmers and boaters never even know they are being poisoned. Most attribute the sudden onset of light-headedness and headache to seasickness, the flu, food poisoning or too much alcohol. Exposure to a boat's engine exhaust can cause swimmers to faint, and if they are not wearing a life jacket, they simply slip under the water and drown.

East Pierce firefighter and paramedic Jeff Palensky explained that it takes just minutes to be affected by CO poisoning. "A couple breaths and you can go completely unconscious," he said.

Dina Sutherland, public education coordinator for East Pierce is leading the public awareness campaign. She and several firefighters have been operating a booth at the Puyallup Fair, handing out information and answering questions.

Residents were reminded of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning Aug. 20 when a 22-year old woman died while boating on Lake Tapps with friends. Initial reports indicate that the young woman had elevated levels of carbon monoxide in her blood.

Over the years, East Pierce has worked with city and county officials to post warning signs regarding carbon monoxide poisoning at Allan York Park and North Tapps Park in memory of two young people who lost their lives on the lake in recent years.

For information about carbon monoxide poisoning and boating safety or to schedule a free life jacket fitting, contact Sutherland at 253-863-1800.

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