Taking a few simple safety precautions will help keep your family safe this winter
It's that time of year—cold weather and freezing temperatures are sweeping across the country. If they haven't done so already, households will soon be turning on the heat to keep warm. This being said, the late fall and winter months are also peak time for accidental deaths caused by carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1999–2010 a total of 5,149 deaths occurred in the United States due to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, which is an average of 430 deaths per year.
These deaths are tragic reminders that carbon monoxide is a killer. In fact, CO is called the "invisible killer," because you can't see, smell, or taste it.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that more than 40% of carbon monoxide deaths are associated with the use of generators—such as operating them in a garage or basement—which is extremely dangerous. The majority of those deaths occur in the colder months of November, December, January, and February.
Don't let yourself or your family become part of a statistic! To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home, make sure that you:
- Have fuel-burning home heating appliances – your furnace, chimney, water heater, etc. – checked by a professional every year to make sure they are working properly.
- Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause carbon monoxide to build up inside your home or cabin.
- Never burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn't vented.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and outside bedroom areas.
- If you use a generator when the power goes out, keep it outside, far from windows and doors. DO NOT use a generator in your garage.
In addition to carbon monoxide risks, space heaters also need to be handled with extra care to prevent unintentional fires. Space heaters are associated with an average of 100 deaths each year, according to CPSC.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that space heaters, whether portable or stationary, are linked to approximately one-third (33%) of home heating fires and four out of five (81%) home heating fire deaths.
When using a space heater, make sure that you:
- Turn the space heater off when you go to sleep or leave the room.
- Keep the space heater at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including curtains and furniture.
Also, have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside bedroom areas and inside each bedroom.
Find additional life-saving information in CPSC's Carbon Monoxide Information Center.