Often called the silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, invisible gas produced when fuels, such as oil, propane, natural gas, kerosene, gasoline, wood or charcoal burn incompletely. This makes winter a prime time for CO poisoning since we use these some of these fuels to heat our homes when the outside temperature drops.
Improperly ventilated heating systems, appliances, and engines, when operated in tightly sealed or enclosed space, means CO can accumulate to dangerous levels. Carbon monoxide poisoning is often difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are very similar to the flu and COVID-19: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, and vomiting. They can also include chest pain and confusion, and there is a risk of permanent brain and heart damage. Higher levels of CO inhalation can quickly lead to loss of consciousness and death.
Westfield Gas + Electric encourages residents to have their furnaces, vents, and fuel-burning appliances inspected annually to make sure they function properly. Carbon monoxide alarms are also a great defense in the early detection of CO in your home. To help prevent CO poisoning, install alarms on every level of your home and within 10’ of every bedroom, and test them regularly. Change the batteries every six months and replace detectors every five to seven years or at the manufacturer’s recommendation.
If your detector sounds an alarm, do not assume it is defective. If you suspect poisoning, get fresh air immediately and call for help by dialing 911 or WG+E Emergency Dispatch at 413-572-0000. Emergency responders will let you know when it’s safe to go back inside.
In addition to annual inspections and CO alarm installations, WG+E offers these safety tips:
- Never leave a vehicle, snow blower, or other gasoline-powered engine to idle inside a garage, even if the door is open, as dangerous levels of CO can build up and drift into the home.
- Before a snowstorm, locate all exhaust pipes or vents that exit your home through an exterior wall and don’t allow snow to block these vents.
- Only use portable generators outside. Keep them at least 20’ away from home, doors, and windows, and keep all doors and windows closed when in use.
By following these guidelines year-round, carbon monoxide poisoning can easily be prevented, and sharing this information with family and friends helps keep everyone safe. Learn more information on our Safety Page.