The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

January 7, 2014

Bitterly cold weather exposes unsafe practices to stay warm

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cold weather is nothing new for Alliant Energy customers. Even so, the forecasted temperatures this week are a little extreme, so Alliant Energy reminds customers about some common safety tips to help keep customers warm and safe during the cold stretch.

The threat of carbon monoxide poisoning is typically highest in the winter, even more so when the temperatures dip so low. Exposure to carbon monoxide happens when heating equipment malfunctions. It’s important to know CO is a deadly, odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. Only a special CO detector can alert you of a problem. These detectors should be installed on every floor of a home or business, and especially near bedrooms.

“Because the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic those of the flu without a fever, victims often don’t realize the cause of their illness,” said Richard Sublett, Senior Manager of Natural Gas Compliance and Operational Performance. “Headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion and shortness of breath are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have these symptoms after being in an enclosed area, get fresh air immediately and seek medical attention. Be sure to tell your doctor that you may have CO poisoning.”

CO can also fill your home if you warm your car up in the garage, or even halfway outside the garage. Commonly the exhaust containing carbon monoxide fills the garage and doesn’t dissipate, forcing it into the home.

Don’t use a cooking stove or a grill, either gas or charcoal, to provide heat in a home, garage, or fishing shack. Do not use a fuel-burning space heater in an enclosed space without proper venting.

Make sure your natural gas appliances or equipment are installed, maintained and used properly and safely. Throughout the year, regularly clean or replace filters in your furnace or space heater. With a furnace and water heater running overtime, condensation can form ice and block the vents located on the top or side of your home. Chimneys and sidewall vents must be clear to allow proper venting, which prevents accumulation of carbon monoxide or equipment malfunction.

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