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Family involved in carbon monoxide incident was running car in garage to keep warm, ATCEMS says

The incident involved eight patients. Three were taken to hospitals, including a child and a teenager.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) and the Austin Fire Department responded to a carbon monoxide exposure call Thursday night that resulted in three people being taken to hospitals, including a child and a teenager.

According to a tweet from ATCEMS at around 10:40 p.m., both medics and firefighters responded to a "multi-patient carbon monoxide exposure incident," where eight people were exposed to carbon monoxide. Among the eight people, six were adults, one was a teenager and the other was a child.

Three of the eight patients were transported to hospitals. ATCEMS said that two of the patients – one adult and the child – had serious, potentially life-threatening symptoms. Both of those patients were airlifted to University Hospital in San Antonio because they had serious carbon monoxide symptoms requiring hyperbaric oxygen treatment. 

The third transported patient was the teenager, who was taken to Dell Children's Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening symptoms. ATCEMS said the five remaining adult patients were evaluated and refused EMS transport.

During a City of Austin press conference Friday afternoon, ATCEMS Assistant Chief Wes Hopkins said that this incident was a result of the family running their car in their garage to keep warm. The garage door was open about one-third of the way.

"Austin-Travis County has received ten 911 calls for carbon monoxide poisoning involving 32 patients. The majority of these incidents involve multiple patients, frequently in carbon monoxide exposures that impact entire households. Most involved folks were running generators in their garages," Hopkins said. "Carbon monoxide, as you well know, is a silent killer. You may not know you’ve been exposed until it’s way too late."

Hopkins provided the following safety tips to avoid carbon monoxide exposure:

  • Do not use generators or grills in enclosed spaces, even if it’s in a garage and the garage door is open
  • Generators need to be at least 20 feet from your home, outside, with the exhaust facing away from the structure
  • Do not use stoves or ovens to heat your home
  • In the event of a power outage, keep warm by:
    • Wearing multiple layers of light-weight clothing, mittens, gloves and hats
    • Wrapping yourself in plenty of blankets and keeping curtains closed, unless the sun is out 
    • Keeping everyone in the household in one room
  • If you’re using a space heater, make sure it has plenty of room and an automatic off switch

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