January is carbon monoxide awareness month, and for good reason; there are more carbon monoxide deaths this month than any other time of the year. The cold weather causes more people to use heat sources such as gas furnaces, generators, and propane, and perhaps unsurprisingly, carbon monoxide deaths are higher in states where winters are very cold. Carbon monoxide is the byproduct of fuels that haven’t burned completely, and is an odorless, colorless gas that can easily go unnoticed; it’s often referred to as “the silent killer”. Even the symptoms of poisoning (headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or confusion) can be overlooked or mistaken for other illnesses, such as the flu. Make sure you and your family stay safe while warm this winter with these tips!Install at least one carbon monoxide detector in a central location in the house and test it monthly. For optimal safety, it’s a good idea to have several throughout the house that communicate with each other.
1. When installing detectors, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for placement and height requirements.
2. Replace your detectors as needed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
3. Don’t use your gas stove to heat the house.
4. Have your chimney, furnace, and heating vents inspected and serviced annually.
5. Don’t warm up your vehicle inside a garage, even if the door is open. Cars produce a lot of carbon monoxide, and keeping it in the enclosed area is risky. Move your car outside the garage as soon as you start it up, and warm it up outside.
6. Only use generators, furnaces, and grills outside and in a well-ventilated area away from doors, windows and vents to prevent gas from seeping into the house.
7. If you live in a place that snows, make sure all vents to dryers, fireplaces, and furnaces aren’t blocked by snow or ice; likewise, make sure your car’s tailpipe is clear of snow as well!
8. Check with your local fire department where to call if your alarm sounds, and keep the number handy- just in case!
9. If your alarm sounds, immediately go outside or near an open door or window and make sure everyone else in the house does as well. Call the phone number you received from the fire department, and wait outside until they’ve inspected and cleared your house.
10. Make sure you’re aware of the symptoms of poisoning. If at any point you feel unwell, and suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, get outside ASAP! It’s always better to error on the side of caution. Call emergency personnel to check both you and your house out, and don’t go back into the house until it’s clear.