Winter home safety tips

Thursday, November 11th 2004, 10:17 am
By: News On 6

As the temperature continues to drop, many northeastern Oklahoma families are heating their homes for the first time this season.

A warning for residents, if you're not prepared, cold can be just as deadly indoors as out. News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin has more.

“Check everything out, very thoroughly." It's a lesson Tulsan Henry Harris learned the hard way, after his family had a brush with death by carbon monoxide poisoning. They moved into a home with a faulty furnace, rusted pipes and improper ventilation caused the deadly gas to back up and sent his wife and kids to the emergency room earlier this week.

Technician Phil Bell sees improper ventilation in about one of every ten calls. "What you do is make sure everything is connected up." The unit he's checking belongs to Debra Wiest, who found something funny with her thermostat and wasn't taking any chances. "My husband turned it on, then in a couple of minutes it went right back off, then it came on and went right back off."

Phil Bell: “Let's turn this thing on and see what it does." Luckily, Wiest's furnace is a recent model with a safety shut-off feature, if CO is seeping out. Phil Bell: "probably 75%, 80% of the units out there are not new like this."

With older units, if no one takes a look, you may not know there's a problem until you start feeling sick. Phil Bell: “You'll get your headaches, your eyes burning and you're nauseous." It's easier to recognize those symptoms while you're awake, but it's when you're sleeping that this silent killer can strike and if you don't have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, you won't even know it.

Detectors are in the $30 to $60 price range and can be wired directly into your home, plugged in an outlet or battery operated. Place them in sleeping areas, or hallways where gas is likely to be trapped, but away from windows. Don't put them near household chemicals or too close to gas burning appliances, these naturally give off a small amount when switched on.

Know how to respond to a CO detector alarm, open doors and windows for ventilation and get outside. The best way to stay safe, have a qualified technician inspect fuel-burning appliances at least once a year. Phil Bell: "The biggest danger on furnaces is carbon monoxide, the air conditioner breaks, you just get hot, the furnace breaks and you could die."

If you're heating with a fireplace, it's a good idea to have your chimney checked and cleaned. Creosote buildup can easily spark a fire that could spread to the roof and the entire house.