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PREVENTING CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
• Service all heating systems and all gas-, oil- or coal-burning appliances by a technician annually.
• Install a battery-operated and electric-powered carbon monoxide detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 911.
• Contact a doctor if you believe you have carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Do not use gas-powered devices such as a generator, grill or stove inside your home, basement or near a near a window or door. Generators should be operated more than 15 feet from the home.
• Do not run any gas-powered motor inside a closed structure, such as a garage.
With temperatures dropping down further each and every night, many Livonia residents may be pulling out the space heater, turning the furnace up high and lighting a fire in the fireplace. This is also a great time to talk about safety during the heating season.
Some of the biggest problems we see during the heating season have to do with space heaters and extension cords. If you are going to use a portable space heater, check to see if it is compatible with the extension cord you plan on using, and don't put too many heaters into one extension cord. Remember to check the cord for any signs of fraying or cracks in the cover over the wires before using it.
There should be three feet of clearance between space heaters and anything flammable, like blankets, drapes or clothing. Use space heaters only in the room that an adult is in so they can supervise them. Many of the newer models have a “tip over” switch that turns the unit off in case it is accidentally bumped and knocked over. This is a nice feature.
I have seen fires break out when people put blankets and clothing too close to the space heaters with the intention of leaving them there for just a minute or two to heat them up a bit. All it takes is something to divert our attention, and the items are forgotten until a fire breaks out.
Chimneys should be cleaned and inspected every year, and keep combustibles three feet away from the fireplace when it is in use. Keep the screen closed to keep in any sparks or embers that may pop when burning, and don't burn anything other than wood in the fireplace. Burning wrapping paper and garbage can lead to a premature buildup of creosote inside the chimney walls, which can lead to a fire. You must also maintain the three-foot clearance from the front of the fireplace as well, as the heat coming out of the fireplace can cause a fire in combustibles placed too close.
The hard-working furnace also needs some maintenance to keep functioning properly during the long hard winter. Replace and/or clean filters as recommended, and have an annual inspection done. Since our natural gas-fueled furnaces can have problems over time, a carbon monoxide alarm makes great sense as well. Make sure you follow manufacturers' recommendations on the placement of these items, but test them monthly just as you should with your smoke alarms. Remember to replace the batteries annually, and practice a home fire escape plan with your family at least twice a year to keep the plan fresh in your minds.
Livonia can be a beautiful place in the winter months. When the fun is over, the snowmen are finished and the last snowball for the night has been tossed, you will want to head in to a nice warm home to enjoy the rest of the evening ... safely.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia