Carbon monoxide: Tips you need to know - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Carbon monoxide: Tips you need to know

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The carbon monoxide scare that sent 40 Atlanta elementary school students to the hospital on Monday highlights an unseen but very real danger.  Carbon monoxide poisoning can come on suddenly, and it can be deadly.  

This time of year is peak season for these kinds of poisonings.  It's getting colder outside, and people are firing up their heating systems.  Carbon monoxide is a gas that is produced by fuel-burning furnaces, stoves, hot water heaters and fireplaces.  Even your vehicle can be a source of CO poisoning.  

Decatur Fire Marshal Stephanie Burton says there are some things you can do to make sure your family stays safe from the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.  

She warns that one of the reasons it's so dangerous is because you can't see it, and you can't smell it.  Burton says when it hits you, you might start to feel nauseous, dizzy, lightheaded or even a little sleepy.  Some people might even lie down, but if they do, they may not wake up.  By the time you start feeling sick, Burton says you're already in danger.

If this happens to you or your family, it's a good idea to get in a ventilated space—preferably outside your home—and all the fire department.  They're happy to come and check to see if high levels of carbon monoxide are present in your home.

Burton also says you need a carbon monoxide detector.  In fact, you can get one that is also a smoke detector, and they last about seven years.  The combination smoke-CO detectors will run about $25, but Decatur and other fire departments will install them for free.  

Burton says a big source of CO poisoning is your home's heating system, so you should get a professional to check out and make sure it's vented and working properly.  Also, you should never warm your vehicle in a garage without first opening the door and backing out at least part of the way.

Because carbon monoxide is heavier than oxygen, it pools low—making it most dangerous for children and pets.

Experts recommend placing carbon monoxide detectors near your bedrooms because you spend most of your time at home sleeping.  It's also a good idea to put one next to your hot water heater, and remember that even things like space heaters can produce fumes.  If it goes off, get outside and call 911.  It could save your family.

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