SPRINGFIELD – The Office of the State Fire Marshal of Illinois, in an effort to keep residents safe, wants to remind those in the state this winter to have their furnaces checked and to make sure carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires in the United States. Illinois Fire Departments respond to around 20,000 calls about carbon monoxide each year. Symptoms of CO poising are very similar to the flu and include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. Other signs of possible CO presence include condensation on walls and windows, house pets becoming sluggish and chronic odors from malfunctioning appliances. If you suspect you may be experiencing these symptoms, smell natural gas leaking in your home, or if your CO alarm activates, if you can evacuate the building, do so immediately. Only open windows on your way out if they are easily accessible. If someone is unable to leave the building, or is unconscious, open doors and windows to the outside in the area the person is located and stay as near to the open window or door as possible until first responders arrive.
“Unlike smoke, carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas only detectable by special devices and CO alarms. This means it’s imperative that you have working CO alarms in your home to help keep you and your family safe. There are numerous brands of CO alarms available at most retailers across the state, some that are a combination CO/Smoke alarm that can provide dual protection. These alarms, just like smoke alarms, need to be tested monthly to ensure they are working properly,” said Illinois State Fire Marshal Matt Perez.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to winter heating safety:
• Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional; change furnace filters frequently.
• Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturers’ instructions.
• Keep interior and exterior air vents clear of blockages or obstructions.
• Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like a furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
• Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before being placed into a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
• Create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
• Test smoke and CO alarms at least once a month and be familiar with the sounds they make.
• Never use an oven or range to heat your home.
• Remember to turn off portable or space heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
• Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors on each floor of your home and within 15 feet of each sleeping area.
• CO detectors have a limited life span, check the manufacturer’s instructions for information on replacement.