Tips: Prevent Carbon Monoxide, Fire Hazards

As the weather cools down and people spend more time indoors, the risk of home fires and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning incidents rises. This fall, the Home Safety Council (HSC) is urging families to create a healthy and safe home environment, which includes taking steps to prevent home fire and CO hazards.

Despite the increasing risk of home fires and carbon monoxide poisoning as the weather turns cooler, a new Home Safety Council survey found that most respondents (97 percent) do not consider the fall season as a top time for home injuries. This lack of concern could leave homes and families unprepared should an emergency happen this season.

"With the right tools and a little advance planning, families can prevent a real tragedy," said Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council. "Taking a few simple actions like testing your smoke alarms and replacing alarms that are more than 10 years old can make a big difference in keeping your family safe and healthy throughout the year."

Dropping temperatures are a good reminder to families to conduct a fall home safety walk-through, improving the health of their homes before the winter season truly begins.

The Home Safety Council and offers the following home fire safety checklist to make sure families have the right products and practices in place to safely handle a home fire emergency.

  • Smoke alarms work every minute of every day. Over time, the sensors begin to wear out and reliability of the alarm declines. If your alarms are 10 years old or more -- or if you're not sure how old they are -- don't take a chance. Replace them with new alarms.
  • Purchase smoke alarms that are listed by an independent testing laboratory such as UL, ETL, CSA, etc.
  • At a minimum, install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, and near every bedroom.
  • Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Follow the manufacturer's instructions or push the "test button" on the face of the alarm cover.
  • Put new batteries in your smoke alarms at least one time each year. Do this sooner if the alarm makes a regular chirping signal, indicating low battery power.
  • Consider using interconnected smoke alarms. These are available with wireless connection and hard-wired with battery back-up. These alarms are linked together so that if one alarm operates, they all signal at once, giving you precious extra time to get your family members to safety.
  • Make a fire escape plan for your family with two exits out of every room and an outside meeting place.
  • Hold a family fire drill at least twice each year.
  • You might need a fire escape ladder to get out of upstairs bedroom windows. If so, they should be stored near the windows and made part of your fire drills. Practice with them from a ground-floor window to prevent injury.
  • If you have a fire in your home, once you get out, stay out. Do not go back inside for any reason. Call the fire department from outside the burning building.
  • Learn how and when to use a fire extinguisher.
  • Consider having a home fire sprinkler system installed in your new home or when you remodel.

Carbon monoxide is a potentially deadly gas that is produced by fuel- burning heating equipment, such as furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces and kerosene heaters. It is commonly known as "the silent killer" because it is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Follow these CO safety tips to improve the health of your home.

  • Install at least one carbon monoxide alarm near sleeping areas.
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up your home's central heating system and repair leaks or other problems; fireplaces and woodstoves should also be inspected each year and cleaned or repaired as needed.
  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted and serviced.
  • Never use an oven or range to heat your home.
  • Never use a gas or charcoal grill inside your home or in a closed garage.
  • Portable electric generators must be used outside only. Never use them indoors, in a garage or in any confined area that can allow carbon monoxide to collect. Follow usage directions closely.

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