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Officials: Temps bring CO hazards

LAWRENCEVILLE — As winter digs its frigid claws in Gwinnett this week, officials are reminding residents that carbon monoxide poisoning, billed as “the silent killer,” is often the handiwork of faulty heating systems.

Carbon monoxide, as grade-school lore reminds us, is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that’s hard to detect. It can cause illness or death before victims know they’re breathing it.

Carbon Monoxide Safety 101

Emergency officials offer the following tips:

• Check that all home-heating appliances are installed according to manufacturer’s instructions;

• Have all home heating appliances — that is, space heaters, fireplaces, furnaces and hot water heaters — serviced annually by a certified technician;

• Install a CO detector in hallways near bedrooms and on every level of the home. Be familiar with the sound of an activated alarm;

• Never burn charcoal inside a house, or other enclosed areas like garages;

• Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat homes;

• Never use gasoline-powered tools and engines (such as generators) indoors;

• If warming a vehicle is a must, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it;

• When using the fireplace, open the flue for adequate ventilation.

With low temperatures expected to remain below the freezing mark through Friday, according to AccuWeather.com, Gwinnett County Fire Department officials stressed this week that a high percentage of carbon-monoxide poisonings are caused by heating systems that aren’t properly installed or maintained.

Firefighters suggest having all home heating appliances inspected and serviced annually by a qualified technician. But knowing what to watch out for can be just as important as preventative measures.

“Symptoms of CO poisoning are often mistaken for those accompanying the flu,” said Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge. “The difference is that these symptoms will go away after leaving the home, or CO source, for a period of time.”

Symptoms include headache, nausea, confusion, dizzy spells and fatigue. Rutledge recommends heading outside immediately should symptoms arise, and calling 911 to report the leak.

Fire officials recommend leaving the home closed up and the appliances turned on.

“This will help firefighters determine the source of the leak,” Rutledge said.