Colder fall temperatures lead to a higher usage of furnaces, fireplaces, and water heaters. It’s for this reason that the chilly winter season sees the highest incidences of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is estimated to kill at least 430 people and send as many as 50,000 more to emergency rooms annually. Luckily, carbon monoxide poisoning is largely preventable, and there are a number of ways to protect your family from falling victim to this silent threat.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is the colorless, odorless gas byproduct of burning fuel. Due to its invisible nature, the gas can become trapped indoors and build up to toxic levels. Because Michigan winters can be especially brutal, homeowners tend to use more natural gas, charcoal, gasoline, wood, and other CO-releasing fuels to keep their homes warm, which greatly increases the risk for CO poisoning.
Inhaling CO can lead to potentially fatal consequences. Those exposed to high levels of the gas experience headaches, nausea or vomiting, confusion, blurred vision, and ultimately a loss of consciousness. Once symptoms are exhibited, evacuating the home and seeking emergency medical help are required to treat the issue and prevent it from causing permanent damage or even death.
While potentially deadly, CO buildup is a largely preventable risk. Because most incidences of CO poisoning occur over the winter and peak in January when furnaces are getting the most use, taking preventative measure in the fall as temperatures begin to cool can potentially save lives. There are several simple precautions you can take to ensure that you and your family are protected from the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Have your gas-burning appliances, vents, and fireplace flues inspected annually.
If you have an appliance that is leaking an unusual amount of CO, poor ventilation will only compound the problem. Blocked vents and flues can lead to a potentially lethal buildup of the gas.
Never run a car in a closed garage.
Cars burn fuel, too, so running yours in an unventilated garage is a sure-fire way to cause a CO problem. So many CO incidences occur because of running cars in garages that experts recommend not leaving a vehicle running in an attached garage at all due to the risk of CO poisoning to the house’s occupants–even if the garage door is open at the time.
Run generators at least 20 feet away from your house.
Generators come with warnings explicitly stating the risk for CO exposure if placed too close to a house. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and place the generator away from your house to minimize the chances of the gas making its way inside.
Install CO detectors on every floor of your house.
Far and away, this is the best way to protect your home and family from CO poisoning. Carbon monoxide can’t be tasted, smelled, or seen, but it can be detected by sensors in a CO detector. EPS-installed detectors can be monitored by our award-winning 24/7 EPS Monitoring Center. If CO is detected, the Monitoring Center will dispatch emergency services to your home and contact you immediately.
…and check your CO detector batteries every six months.
Many industry experts recommend checking and/or changing your CO batteries when you set your clocks back and forward for Daylight Saving Time (DST). DST occurs twice a year and is the professional recommendation for how many times a year you should check your detectors, so it’s easier to remember to do both at the same time than it is to remember the events separately.
Installing quality carbon monoxide detectors can be a matter of life-and-death. Find peace of mind with a professionally monitored EPS Security alarm system. We have more than sixty years of experience in installing, monitoring, and maintaining home security and life safety devices, and our Grand Rapids-based Monitoring Center has won awards for alarm dispatch. Keep toasty this winter knowing your bases are covered by EPS Security.