Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

The cold, wet wintry weather in Southern California over the past month has caused people to fire up their furnaces and, for some, be exposed to potential carbon-monoxide poisoning.Southern California Gas Co. (the Gas Company) is urging customers to ensure their equipment is operating safely by taking advantage of the utility's free furnace inspections. "While carbon-monoxide poisoning incidents are rare, we usually see a rise in the number of occurrences when the weather gets really cold," said Richard M. Morrow, vice president of customer services for SDG&E. "Often, the cause of carbon-monoxide in a home is due to a problem with the furnace, so we're urging customers to be safe and get their furnaces inspected by a licensed, qualified professional." The utility also warns against using ovens, ranges or outdoor barbecues for home heating. These appliances are not designed for such use and pose a severe and potentially fatal risk of carbon-monoxide poisoning if used for space heating. To schedule an appointment for a free furnace inspection by the Gas Company, visit the Gas Company's website at www.socalgas.com or call toll-free at (800) 427-2200 or (800) 342-4545 in Spanish. Customer service representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is formed when carbon-based fuels, such as kerosene, gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, charcoal or wood, are burned with inadequate amounts of oxygen, creating a condition known as incomplete combustion. Signs that may indicate the presence of carbon monoxide: •A yellow, large and unsteady gas appliance burner flame (with the exception of decorative gas log appliances). •An unusual pungent odor when the appliance is operating. •Unexplained nausea, drowsiness and flu-like symptoms. What to do if someone suspects carbon monoxide is present in their home: •If safe to do so, immediately turn off the suspected gas appliance. •Evacuate the premises and call 911. •Seek medical attention if anyone in the home experiences possible carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms. •Contact the Gas Company or a licensed, qualified professional immediately to have the appliance inspected. •Don't use the suspected gas appliance until it has been inspected, serviced and determined to be safe by the Gas Company or a licensed, qualified professional. How to maintain and use gas appliances safely and efficiently: •Clean inside the burner compartment of built-in, vented wall furnaces once a month during the heating season to prevent lint build-up. •Inspect and replace furnace filters on forced-air units or central heating systems according to manufacturer instructions. •When installing a new or cleaned filter, be sure to re-install the front panel door of the furnace properly so it fits snugly. Never operate the furnace without the front panel door properly in place. •Never store anything near a gas appliance that might interfere with normal appliance airflow. •Assure that appliance venting is intact and unblocked.

********** Published: February 19, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 44