With the region feeling the first taste of winter this weekend, local, state and utility safety officials are encouraging customers to prepare their homes for the heating season. From safety and energy-saving measures to budget plans, the company is offering the following information to help prepare for the colder temperatures in the months to come.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Safe Kids Kansas and the Kansas State Fire Marshal encourage Kansans to install carbon monoxide detectors outside sleeping areas in your home to protect your family from this odorless and hazardous gas.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children younger than five years old have the highest estimated rate of CO-related visits to the emergency room each year among all age groups in the United States. Nationally, more than 25 children die from CO poisoning every year. In Kansas, over 500 people have been hospitalized and four people have died from CO poisoning over the past 10 years.
“Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless,” said Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. “The symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of common winter ailments, like the flu. Without a CO detector in your home, your family can be poisoned without even realizing it’s happening.”
“The harmful effects of carbon monoxide strike rapidly and can be deadly,” says Tom Langer, Director of the Bureau of Environmental Health at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). “It’s important to have working CO detectors in your home to alert you of this invisible danger before it’s too late.”
Carbon Monoxide detectors cost approximately $20 and can be purchased at most hardware and retail stores.
“Carbon monoxide can cause sudden illness or even death,” says Dr. Farah Ahmed, Environmental Health Officer with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). “Having a carbon monoxide detector with a battery backup near where people sleep saves lives.”
Following are tips to protect your family from CO poisoning:
• Prevent CO buildup in the first place - make sure heating appliances are in good working order and used only in well-ventilated areas.
• Don’t run a car engine in the garage, even with the garage doors open. If you need to warm up your vehicle, move it outside first.
• Install a CO alarm outside every sleeping area, on every level of your home and at least 15 feet away from every fuel-burning appliance.
• When you check your smoke alarm batteries each month, check the batteries on your CO alarms at the same time – and replace the batteries twice a year.
• Never use an oven for heating.
• Portable generators must be used outside for proper ventilation. They cannot be used indoors or inside of a garage.
• Have all gas, oil or coal-burning appliances inspected by a technician every year to ensure they’re working correctly and are properly ventilated.
If more than one person in the home suddenly feels ill for no apparent reason, or if a CO alarm goes off, get everyone outside immediately and call 911 from a pre-arranged meeting place.
“Having a working CO alarm is just as important as having a smoke alarm,” said Doug Jorgensen, Kansas Fire Marshal. “These devices provide the best protection for early detection.”
Kansas Gas Service also reminds customers of the importance of preparing for winter.
Care should be taken that nothing obstructs a heater’s air intake and that vents and flues are intact and unblocked to avoid the potential of carbon monoxide poisoning, KGS recommends. Customers should have a qualified contractor inspect heating and cooling equipment annually and also install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors according to manufacturer’s instructions.
If someone suspects the presence of carbon monoxide, they should leave the area immediately and call 911.
There are also opportunities to save energy and money. In spite of the cold, customers can reduce the impact of the weather on their bills with some common-sense conservation steps:
• Make sure heaters are properly adjusted and running with clean filters.
• Add weather-stripping and seal windows and doors.
• Consider lowering the thermostat at night.
• Seal off unused rooms to prevent unnecessary heating.
Customers also may sign up for the Average Payment Plan, which reduces the fluctuations in your bill amount each month by spreading your natural gas expenses throughout the year.
For more information about natural gas safety, energy-saving tips and the Average Payment Plan visit www.kansasgasservice.com.