Heating Safely in Frigid Weather

My thoughts and prayers are going out to anyone in the country who is dealing with the frigid ice and snow storms lately. I’m keeping in touch, well as I can, with friends in those areas, and every news report weighs heavily on my heart.

I’ve just heard from a friend whose neighborhood is struggling with ice storms. She mentioned widespread power outages and the dangers of hypothermia, which threaten residents—such as the elderly—who don’t want to leave their homes. They’ve also had reports of fires that were caused by people who brought their outdoor grills in for heat.

This news sent a different kind of chill through me—there’s another danger that many people may not be aware of, in this time of cold and ice. Carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is the leading cause of poisoning deaths in the United States. Many times the poisoning occurs when inappropriate grills and heaters are brought indoors, to an enclosed space without adequate ventilation.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is a byproduct of incomplete fuel combustion. Anything that burns can produce carbon monoxide. Fuel-burning appliances such as gas stoves, fireplaces, and kerosene heaters should be tested by the fire department, the gas company, or a heating technician every year, to make sure they are working properly. Also, adequate ventilation should always be made available—for example, kitchen fans that vent outdoors; chimneys and flues that are properly maintenanced; and windows that are opened a crack in furnace rooms.

But who has a window open during the middle of winter? When people want to heat their homes, they will be doing their very best to seal up all the cracks. This is danger enough simply with normal household appliances—but when outdoor grills or stoves are brought inside for heat, the carbon monoxide can accumulate and reach deadly levels.

If you know anyone who might be trying to use such methods of heating their homes, please spread the word about carbon monoxide safety. My family and I survived chronic exposure to CO, and came away with long-term damage. Yet we were lucky.

And I’ll keep the prayers going.

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