Fire/EMS Icon Warns Responders of 'Silent Killer'

Randy Mantooth of "Emergency!" fame recently joined the EMS Squadcast on to discuss a mission close to his heart: awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning, the "Silent Killer" for firefighters, paramedics and police officers.

Mantooth played the role of Los Angeles County Firefighter/Paramedic "Johnny Gage" in the popular 1970s NBC Universal television series "Emergency!" and it was during filming that he had his own near-death CO experience 20 years ago.

As he tells EMS Squadcast host Tim Perkins in the interview, "When I was shooting the show I almost died of carbon monoxide poisoning... I think that was as close a call as I've ever had, and were it not for two L.A. County firefighter/paramedics I probably would have died."

Now, Mantooth speaks on the topic, which he says is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the world and that responders are more exposed to it than any other sector in America.

"...I owe a huge debt to firefighter/paramedics and this is my way of trying to pay that back, talking about occupational dangers," he said.

The health and safety campaign was launched in 2010 by the IAFF and the IAFC. Also lending assistance to the project was Masimo, a maker and marketer of noninvasive patient monitoring technologies.

The campaign includes a six-minute video that highlights the immediate and long-term risks connected with carbon monoxide exposure. It's aimed at raising responder awareness to the dangers of the colorless, odorless toxic gas. The video can be viewed online at along with a host of other CO health and safety resources.

Carbon monoxide is present in every fire, according to the IAFF, and can also be encountered by unsuspecting responders during EMS and police calls at homes and other buildings. Symptoms of CO poisoning are nonspecific and easy to miss. Anyone potentially exposed to CO and presenting with headache, nausea, shortness of breath or gastrointestinal symptoms should be assessed.

"I'm probably not telling anyone anything you don't know, but what I'm trying to do is hit below the belt emotionally and show you what you're going to miss if you don't change the way you think about carbon monoxide," Mantooth said.

In addition to CO poisoning, Mantooth also speaks on the podcast about his work with the L.A. County Fire Museum and of course, "Emergency!," sharing a cast update, discussing the show's impact, and more.

Listen at The EMS Squadcast - February 2011 - Randolph Mantooth.