Make heating your home safely a priority this winter

Posted at: 12/23/2011 9:53 AM

When the weather turns cold, many families struggle to pay the utilities necessary to heat their homes. In times of financial hardship some families may even find themselves behind on their bills and may see their utilities temporarily shut off.

While there are agencies in the Rochester area to help families pay utility bills—including the Red Cross/RGE Heating Fund—many families attempt to heat their homes with alternative fuel sources. This is a very dangerous situation for many reasons.

Heating Sources
• The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.
• When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system.
• If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.
• Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.
• Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-¬burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area.
• Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
• Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.
• Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers for heating your home.
• Never use a portable generator in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, including in your home or in a garage, basement, crawl space, or other partially enclosed area, even with ventilation.

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon Monoxide, or CO, alarms can help detect CO, a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning any fuel. Exposure to high levels of CO can cause death. The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu and include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, and irregular breathing.
• Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, or CSA 6.19.01). It is especially important to have a CO alarm near sleeping areas.
• Test and maintain your CO alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
• CO can leak from faulty furnaces or fuel-fired heaters or can be trapped inside a home by a blocked chimney or flue. Burning charcoal inside a home produces CO. Running an automobile engine in an attached garage can cause CO to enter a home and so can running a portable generator if it is near windows, doors, or vents, even if it is outdoors.
• When the alarm sounds, head to fresh air and contact 911.

For more information on heating your home with a generator, visit redcross.org. For more information on the Red Cross/RGE Heating Fund, visit rochesterredcross.org or call 585-241-4474.

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