With temperatures dropping to more than 20 below here in Minnesota, area fire departments are warning residents to make sure their furnace exhaust pipes are clear of snow and ice.

Blocked pipes can cause carbon monoxide to go back into the home. Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that can be deadly. CO is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it. 

Hinckley Fire Chief, Elliott Golly, said they typically get 5-7 calls per year where a carbon monoxide detector has alarmed. Out of those calls, said Golly, one or two of them have a furnace issue, the rest are situations where the CO detector’s batteries are dead or they are expired. In either case the fire department will go to the home wearing their self-contained breathing equipment and check the levels of CO in the home. If there is an issue, the fire department will call in the gas company.

Carbon Monoxide safety

The following are some safety tips from Minnesota Energy Resources regarding natural gas.

• Have at least one smoke/carbon monoxide detector on each floor. Test them monthly to insure they are working properly.

• Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.

• Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher in your kitchen.

• Keep filters and exhausts cleaned and properly vented.

• Check vents regularly for blockage.

• Keep the area around the water heater free of clutter.

• Have your furnace inspected every year and keep the filter clean. 

• Never hang things from utility pipes.

• Keep combustibles away from heat sources.

• Follow a space heater’s instructions carefully and use with proper ventilation.

• Stay away from LP tanks, meters and hookups.

• If your home has corrugated stainless steel tubing be sure it is inspected regularly.

CO poisoning

Symptoms of CO poisoning include:

• Sudden flu-like illness

• Dizziness, headaches, sleepiness

• Nausea or vomiting

• Fluttering or throbbing heart beat

• Cherry-red lips, unusually pale complexioN

• Unconsciousness

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning get everyone out of the house immediately and call 911.

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