Carbon Monoxide Kills, Alarms Save Lives



Photo credit: Cal Pusateri/American Red Cross Volunteer

Winter has finally decided to show up. With it has come deep snow in most areas of our region, and cold temperatures.

Given the increase in the number of carbon monoxide emergencies during cold snaps (like in this story), we want to remind you to exercise caution when heating your home.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless and silent killer that, nationally, claims hundreds of lives each year. A threat year round, carbon monoxide poisoning tends to increase when storms and power outages force people to turn to unsafe alternative heat sources such as fuel-burning appliances, gas generators, camp stoves and charcoal grills and use them in confined spaces.

The best way to keep your family safe during this time is to install carbon monoxide alarms and learn how to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Every home should have at least one carbon monoxide alarm in addition to their smoke alarms,” said Tim O’Toole, Regional Disaster Officer of the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “If there is only one carbon monoxide detector, it should be in or near sleeping areas. Both carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are relatively inexpensive and easy-to-maintain devices that have been proven to save lives. There are even models that feature a combined smoke and carbon monoxide alarm.”

Follow these safety recommendations:

  • Furnaces and other natural gas fired appliances should be serviced once a year.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas (avoid corners where air does not circulate). Test the alarm every month.
  • Have heating systems (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually, checking for blockages, corrosion, and partial and complete disconnections.
  • Never use a generator, grill or camp stove inside a home, garage or basement.
  • Do not use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat your home.
  • Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, move quickly to a fresh air location, and then call 9-1-1.
  • Treat the alarm signal as a real emergency each time. If the alarm sounds and you are not experiencing any symptoms described above, press the reset button. If the alarm continues to sound, call the fire department.

Download the Red Cross First Aid App at to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies.

For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information, visit

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