In Sturgis, a man died in his motor home after suffering from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning August 6.

Known as “the silent killer,” CO poisoning is the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United States – responsible for an average of 450 deaths and more than 20,000 emergency room visits each year. Many homes may have gas-powered generators and they can be useful for emergency situations and, in moments of chaos, people may easily forget to use them properly and that they should be placed at least 25 feet from their home, as they are a source of CO.

Tragedies from gas-powered generators are easily avoidable. The following tips can help families and homeowners protect against CO poisoning:

Install alarms — CO alarms are the only way to detect this poisonous gas, yet nearly one-half of Americans report not having CO alarms in their homes. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends installing alarms on every level of the home and near each sleeping area for maximum protection. Make sure the alarms are installed at least 15 feet away from sources of CO to reduce the possibility of nuisance alarms. Install alarms on every level of the home and near each sleeping area for maximum protection. Test alarm function monthly and change batteries every six months.

Never use generators indoors — In the case of a power outage, portable electric generators must be used outside only (at least 15 feet from your home). Never use them inside the home, in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect. And, be careful to follow operating instructions closely. Also, refrain from using charcoal grills, camp stoves and other similar devices indoors.

Have fuel-burning appliances inspected regularly. Arrange for a professional inspection of all fuel-burning appliances (such as furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers and water heaters) annually.

Run kitchen vents or exhaust fans anytime the stove is in use. The kitchen stove is among the most frequent sources of CO poisoning in the home. Always run exhaust fans when cooking, especially during the holidays when stoves are left on for longer periods of time. Also, open a nearby window periodically when cooking to allow fresh air to circulate.

Be mindful of the garage — Never leave a vehicle running inside an attached garage. Even if the door is open. CO can leak into the home.

Plan Your Escape — To develop an effective escape plan, walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Identify two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Practice your home emergency escape plan at least twice a year and make sure to plan a meeting spot. That way, if there is an emergency, everyone knows where to meet.

Call 911 — If an alarm sounds, leave the home immediately and move to fresh air. Then call 911 and do not go back into the home until the home is inspected and cleared.

Clear CO alarms of all dust and debris — Ensure that alarms are plugged all the way into the outlet or, if battery operated, have working batteries installed. Check or replace batteries when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.

Make certain each person can hear the CO alarm sound from his or her sleeping room and that the sound is loud enough to waken everyone. If young children are in the house, consider a smoke and CO combination alarm that features both voice and location technology. Studies have shown that children ages six to 10 wake more easily to a voice than to the traditional audible beep of an alarm.

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