Editorial: Stay warm, but alert for potential danger

A Prescott family escaped certain tragedy this past week when carbon monoxide crept into their home.

Suspecting she had the flu, the mother went to Yavapai Regional Medical Center, where hospital staff determined she was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and called the Prescott Fire Department to check on the woman's home. Firefighters found low oxygen readings in the home and saw signs of carbon monoxide poisoning in all five family members and the cat.

Quick thinking on the part of the hospital and fast treatment by firefighters very possibly saved this family from disastrous consequences of carbon monoxide's deadly fumes. UniSource traced the cause to a faulty vent on a gas water heater and a wall-mounted natural gas heater that was discharging gas into the home, as well.

Thankfully, the family recovered and Prescott Firefighters' Charities helped them buy the necessary equipment to correct the problems.

Now that cold weather has set in, it's time for a reminder about precautions people need to take so that they stay warm safely and don't run the risk of asphyxiation by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Appliances with wood or gas fuel that produce carbon monoxide include fuel-burning space heaters, furnaces, charcoal grills, cooking ranges, water heaters, fireplaces, portable generators, wood-burning stoves and car and truck engines.

With the first hint of winter, head off a possible tragedy by installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home and then be sure that the appliances that heat your house are in good working condition. Have your gas water heater checked at the same time. And, of course, never use charcoal grills indoors or run your car in a closed garage.

However, perhaps your furnace isn't working properly, unbeknownst to you, and carbon monoxide fumes put you in harm's way. Here are symptoms to be aware of: a dull headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, confusion, irritability, impaired judgment and loss of consciousness.

The danger is exacerbated by the fact that carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless and has no color, so if you smell natural gas in your home that's a danger signal meant to alert you. Open windows and doors, if you can, get outside into fresh air and seek emergency help immediately.

Thankfully, the family that suffered carbon monoxide poisoning this past week made it out alive.

Let there be a lesson in this. Have a professional inspect your heating equipment to be sure it's working as it should and install carbon monoxide detectors alongside your smoke detectors.

Simple safeguards save lives.