File Photo – Crystal Lake Fire Rescue | Photo: Tyler Tobolt / Lake and McHenry County Scanner

Fire officials are reminding residents to make sure their carbon monoxide alarms are working, especially during winter, to protect against CO poisoning, which is known as the “invisible killer.”

“The winter months are here. As the mercury begins to dip, damaged or poorly maintained heating equipment may be used, cars may be warming up in the garage, there may be a lack of ventilation in the home with windows closed for the winter or generators used when electricity is out due to a winter storm,” Crystal Lake Fire Rescue Department Public Education Coordinator Karyn Dorfman said.

“People don’t realize how dangerous these practices can be,” Dorfman added.

Any fuel-burning heating equipment such as fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, space or portable heaters, portable generators and chimneys can produce carbon monoxide.

Using a gas stove for heat can cause carbon monoxide fumes to fill the home. A vehicle running inside a garage is a danger zone for poisonous CO that can also fill the home.

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Often called “the invisible killer,” CO is a gas you cannot see, taste or smell. “It can be created when fuels, such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, and oil, burn incompletely. CO can be deadly,” Dorfman said.

CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness or headaches.

Dorfman said it is the goal of the Crystal Lake Fire Rescue Department to reduce the number of CO incidents this winter.

Dorfman recommends residents install CO alarms inside their homes to provide early warning.

“Have your heating equipment inspected by a qualified professional every year before cold weather sets in. Always remove a vehicle from the garage right after starting. Never use a range or oven to heat the home. Portable generators should be operated in well-ventilated locations, outdoors away from all doors, windows and vent openings,” Dorfman said.

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It is also recommended that residents make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow and other debris.

CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and other locations as required by code.

“For the best protection have CO alarms that are interconnected throughout the home. When one sounds they all sound,” Dorfman said.

CO alarms should be tested at least once a month. If a CO alarm activates, it is recommended that all residents get out to a fresh air location and call 911.