With fall in full swing, colder temperatures mean furnaces across Michigan are heating up homes and businesses. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy joined together to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and how to prevent it by designating Nov. 4-10 as Michigan Carbon Monoxide Safety Awareness Week.

"Each year in Michigan about 650 people are affected by carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Our goal during this specially designated week is to make sure Michigan residents are aware that unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning can occur almost anywhere – in homes, businesses, RVs, cabins, boats, even ice shanties. I urge all Michiganders to become more aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, and to take steps to protect themselves against this silent killer," said Gov. Whitmer.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that occurs when there is incomplete fuel combustion of appliances and consumer products or improper venting. This includes all fuels such as natural gas, kerosene, oil, gasoline, charcoal and wood. Appliances that could be affected include furnaces, boilers, water heaters, ovens, fireplaces, portable heaters, generators, gas-powered lawn tools and vehicles.

"We care about the customers and communities we serve and want them to know how to guard against carbon monoxide poisoning by recognizing its signs, symptoms and causes and taking proactive steps to stay safe from harm," said LeeRoy Wells, vice president of gas operations for Consumers Energy.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning often mimic the flu and can include headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath and stinging or burning of the eyes. Prolonged exposure can cause loss of consciousness and even death. High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes.

If you experience these symptoms and suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the building immediately, call 9-1-1 for medical attention and stay out of the building until the problem has been corrected.

"The safety of our customers is a top priority at DTE, and we urge residents to be particularly alert to carbon monoxide danger during the fall and winter heating season when CO exposure most frequently occurs," said Renee Tomina, vice president of gas operations for DTE Gas. "One of the best defenses against CO poisoning is to install a carbon monoxide alarm near all sleeping areas in your home. If dangerous levels of CO are detected, an audible alarm will alert you."

Other tips for protecting against deadly carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Get appliances serviced. Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, wood or coal-burning appliances inspected by a qualified service professional every year.
  • Change or clean furnace air filters at least once every month (more if pets are present) during the heating season.
  • Regularly inspect your chimney and vent pipes to be sure they are free of obstructions like leaves and nests.
  • During a power outage never use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline, kerosene or charcoal burning device inside your home, basement, garage or near a window. Always place portable generators at least 25 feet from an enclosed area and away from doors, windows and fresh air intakes. 
  • If your garage is attached to your home, do not leave your car or truck idling inside, even if the garage door is open.

For a printable fact sheet on carbon monoxide safety, go to www.ConsumersEnergy.com/cosafety or www.dteenergy.com/co.

Source: Consumers Energy