Clear your outdoor vents to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

With so much snowfall in the last week, the Northern New England Poison Center has seen 30 cases of people exposed to carbon monoxide. This number is much higher than usual, even for this time of year. The NNEPC averaged about 8 carbon monoxide cases per week in January and February from 2012-2014.

Here are some tips to help avoid this potentially deadly poisoning:

  • Have a working carbon monoxide alarm. You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide, so an alarm is essential to make sure you can get out of the building before a poisoning becomes serious. You should have at least one alarm on each floor, and an alarm in each part of the building where there are bedrooms. Test the alarm to make sure the batteries are working. If you do not own an alarm, you can purchase one at most hardware and department stores.
  • Keep outside heating vents clear. With more than 2 feet of snowfall in many areas over the last week, it is easy for these vents to become blocked up. If your heating system cannot vent properly, carbon monoxide can build up inside your home.
  • Use generators outside only. Many Northern New England residents turn to a generator when the power goes out. It’s important to only use generators, as well as other outdoor equipment, like grills and gas-powered tools, outside. Your generator should be at least 15 feet away from any houses, with the exhaust facing away from houses.
  • Clear your vehicle’s tailpipe. If snow is blocking the tailpipe, carbon monoxide can build up in the vehicle.
  • Do not leave your car running in the garage.

If you think there is carbon monoxide in your home, get to fresh air right away. Call 911 or your local fire department, and then call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222.
The poison center is available 24/7 to answer any questions you have about carbon monoxide — 1-800-222-1222 or chat online.

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