Carbon Monoxide Awareness

For Samantha Henry the deaths of her brother-in-law and four nephews are as fresh in her mind today as when it happened.

"Healing is just a day-to-day process. There's been times when it's even a minute to minute process," said Samantha.

Samantha lives in Oklahoma. She is on a mission to help other families avoid such a tragedy.

On October 24, 1998 34-year-old Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Johnston, his four-year-old twin sons Robert and Jess and his two stepsons, 13-year-old Jimmy and nine-year-old William, along with the family dog, all died after being overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning while asleep in their home on the base.

Johnston's wife Tina was the only survivor. After remaining in a coma for several days, it took Tina underwent a great deal of rehabiliatation before being released from the hospital.

Now five years later, Tina's sister Samantha is doing whatever she can to get the word out about the dangers of what's known as the "silent killer," carbon monoxide.

"I'm going door-to-door. I'm stopping people at the grocery store. Anything that I can do to get the word out to people, I'm doing it," Samantha said.

Known as the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the U.S., each year more than 2,000 people in the country die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Annually, there are more than 20,000 reported cases of carbon monoxide injuries. These injuries can range from damage to the lungs, nervous system or even the heart. The only way to detect the poisonous gas is with a carbon monoxide alarm, something which nine out of every 10 homes in the U.S. still does not have.

We will examine what can cause carbon monoxide poisoning in the next installment, it's symptoms and what can be done to prevent it. This is something Samantha says everyone needs to know.

"A lot of people say 'Well, it can't happen to my family! Well, it can and it will," said Samantha. Extended Web Coverage

Steps to Reduce Carbon Monoxide Exposure

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.

  • Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one.

  • Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.

  • Install and use an exhaust fan vented outdoors over gas stoves.

  • Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards, make sure that wood stoves fit tightly.

  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating systems (furnaces, flues, and chimneys).

  • Repair any leaks in the heating systems immediately.

  • Do not idle your car inside a garage.

Source: States Environmental Protection Agency Web Site)