Helpful tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

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SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal is encouraging the public to take simple preventative measures to keep their families safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Officials say 11,481 carbon monoxide-related incidents in Illinois were reported to the National Fire Incident Reporting System in 2013.  According to State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis, "carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by just having working carbon monoxide alarms in each household."  Under the Illinois Carbon Monoxide Alarm Act, every home must have a carbon monoxide detector in working condition within 15 feet of each room that's used for sleeping purposes.

Officials are also reminding residents to be wary of carbon monoxide poisoning in the winter months, as common sources of carbon monoxide leaks include heating equipment and fuel-burning appliances.  Fireplaces, cooking equipment, and vehicles running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is commonly referred to as a "silent killer," as the gas is odorless and colorless.  Common symptoms of carbon monoxide are very similar to flu symptoms, and can include nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, and headache.  Officials say other signs to look out for include chronic odors from malfunctioning appliances, condensation on windows and walls, house plants dying, and pets in the home becoming sluggish.

In order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, officials recommend the following tips:

- Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors with fresh batteries on every level of your home, and be sure to check them once a month.  Officials also recommend being familiar with the sounds the alarms make, and to check the manufacturer's instructions on replacement.

- Keep air vents free of obstructions.

- Never use an over to heat your home, and never use a fossil fuel-burning device inside a garage, home, or other enclosed area.

- Make sure your appliances were properly installed by a qualified technician, and only operate the appliances according to the manufacturer's instructions and local building codes.

- Have your heating system inspected and serviced annually, and regularly replace or clean furnace filters.

- Appliance vents and the chimney (if you have one) should be cleaned and inspected for blockages, a buildup of creosote, or leakages.

For more information on carbon monoxide, or for more tips on how to keep you and your family safe, visit www.sfm.illinois.gov or www.nfpa.org/co.

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