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By Miriam Raftery


February 13, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – A Santee couple and their four children have been hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning after the father called 911 on Wednesday. Fortunately, all are expected to recover. But too often, such cases end in tragedy. This reporter, who once worked for the Idaho Statesman newspaper, recalls a restaurant worker who lost his wife and all seven children to poisoning from carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas.


What can you do to avoid this danger, which most often occurs in winter months from faulty or improperty use of heating equipment and fireplaces?


• Have your gas heating system checked FREE every year by San Diego Gas & Electric, call 1-800-411-SDGE (7343).
• If the flame on any gas-powered appliance or fireplace log lighter is yellow, large and erratic, stop using the appliance and have it inspected immediately. Call SDG&E or a licensed heating or plumbing contractor immediately.
• Install a carbon monoxide detector with alarm, or better yet, one on every floor of your home. Replace batteries each year.
• Have chimneys from fireplaces and wood stoves cleaned each year. Soot buildup can case toxic carbon monoxide to back up into your home. Blocked chimneys, or chimneys that leak, can also cause attic fires.
• Be sure the damper is open when using your fireplace or wood stove.
• Don’t use your oven to heat your home.
• Be cautious with portable heaters. The Idaho family died when a portable heater malfunctioned. Never use extension cords with portable heaters.
• Be sure all heating systems are properly vented.
• Never use a charcoal or gas BBQ or gas camp stove indoors.
• Never run your vehicle in your garage.
• Keep a window cracked when driving in winter months.


Know the early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can mimic flu symptoms including nausea, dizziness, headaches, chest pain, and eventually disorientation, unconsciousness and death. If you suspect that you or your family may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911 and get out the home immediately.


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