Check your detector: This winter’s record cold increases likelihood of a carbon monoxide leak

500+ people treated in emergency rooms each year
Check your detector: This winter’s record cold increases likelihood of a carbon monoxide leak

It’s the twice-a-year reminder none of us can avoid: Set your clocks an hour ahead this weekend and don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This year, that reminder doubles as a warning.

The record-breaking cold temperatures we’ve faced this winter have had many furnaces working overtime, which can increase the risk of carbon monoxide leaks in your home. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says approximately 500 people are treated at hospital emergency rooms across the state each year for carbon monoxide poisoning, and many of those cases could be prevented by having working carbon monoxide detectors.

“If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your batteries, that’s a good sign you need to replace your batteries,” said Andrew Beckett, Wisconsin Emergency Management. “Carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors need to be replaced every five to ten years to make sure those devices are still working. They do expire, they do lose their effectiveess after 10 years.”

RELATED: ‘People could have been killed’: 14 people transported to hospital after carbon monoxide leak

“An important part of home safety is making sure the systems that protect us are working properly,” said Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator Brian Satula. “Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors provide a crucial early warning to danger in your home. The time change this weekend provides an excellent opportunity to check those devices while you are resetting your clocks.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, three out of every five home fire deaths occurred when smoke detectors were either not present or were not working properly. Detectors should be tested monthly and the device itself should be replaced every 10 years.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, and confusion. At high levels, carbon monoxide can cause death within minutes. If you suspect you or someone you know may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, or your detector sounds an alarm, go outside immediately for fresh air and call 911.

Here are some additional safety tips to remember:

-All homes and duplexes in Wisconsin are required to have detectors on every level, including the basement, but not the attic or storage areas. Detectors can be purchased at most hardware stores. Replace your detector every five years.

-Have your furnace or wood-burning stove inspected annually. Hire a professional to make sure it is functionally sound and vents properly outside the home.

-Never run a gasoline or propane heater or a grill (gas or charcoal) inside your home or in an unventilated garage. Any heating system that burns fuel produces carbon monoxide. Use a battery-powered detector where you have fuel burning devices but no electric outlets, such as in tents, cabins, RVs and boats with enclosed cabins.

-Generators should be run at a safe distance (at least 20 feet) from the home. Never run a generator in the home or garage, or right next to windows or doors.

-Never run a car in an enclosed space. If a vehicle is running, you must have a door open to the outside.

Daylight saving time begins this Sunday, March 10, at 2 a.m.

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