Coined the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that can be fatal. Carbon monoxide is found in the fumes produced any time fuel is burned in cars, small engines, stoves, grills, fireplaces, furnaces, etc. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. However, those who are asleep or are intoxicated can die or lose consciousness before experiencing any symptoms.
As outside temperatures drop, the use of fuel-burning devices increases, making it the perfect time to review not only fire safety but also carbon monoxide safety. According to a CDC Report, carbon monoxide exposures occur more often during the fall and winter, when people are more likely to use gas furnaces and heaters. Learn how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in the home with these simple winter carbon monoxide safety tips.
Winter Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips
- Install and Test Carbon Monoxide Alarms: Place detectors on every level of the home and in locations where it would wake you up if alarmed, such as outside of a bedroom. Replace the batteries twice a year and replace the detector itself every five to seven years.
- Annual Maintenance of Fuel Burning Devices: Have furnace, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal-burning device serviced by a qualified technician every year. Make sure gas appliances are vented properly. When purchasing any new equipment, ensure it carries the seal of a national testing agency.
- Fireplace Cleaning: Chimneys can be blocked by debris, which can cause CO to build up inside when you light a fire. Make sure it is cleaned to prevent carbon monoxide from being trapped in your home.
- Safe Use of Devices: Never use a generator, portable gas camp stove, or burn charcoal indoors. All of these things should be used outside of the home, far from windows, doors, and vents. They can cause CO to build up in the home.
- Always Use Exhaust Fans When Cooking: The kitchen stove is one of the most frequent sources of carbon monoxide poisoning. Use kitchen vents anytime the stove is in use and open windows or doors periodically to allow fresh air to circulate. Never use a gas range or oven for heating.
“Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable,” said Allison Stock, a CDC toxicologist. “One of the primary ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is through yearly maintenance of gas-burning home appliances. We recommend having a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in the home to alert residents of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.” Whether your client is a multifamily property owner or a community association manager, share these tips to keep them and their residents safe this winter.