The wintery weather is forcing most Iowans to spend more time indoors — and with furnaces, fireplaces and space heaters running, there’s a serious risk from an odorless, colorless gas.

Le Mars Fire and Rescue Chief Dave Schipper strongly recommends carbon monoxide detectors in all houses, apartments and mobile homes.

“We want everybody to have a carbon monoxide alarm or carbon monoxide detector just like a smoke detector,” Schipper says. “We want those to be placed where you can hear them. A lot of people tend to buy carbon monoxide alarms and put them in the basement, which is fine — if you can hear them. Otherwise, we want them in the sleeping area so they can awake you if there’s a problem.”

When people close up their houses because of the cold and there is little ventilation, Schipper says that’s when carbon monoxide calls to his department become common.
“This time of year, we see all kinds of problems with carbon monoxide as far as furnaces that aren’t running properly, fireplaces that may be plugged or have creosote built up in them,” he says. “We have a lot of people that tend to run their cars in their garage to warm them up in the wintertime. Even if the garage door is open, that carbon monoxide is staying in the garage or pushing into the house.”

Schipper says it’s critical to take precautions since carbon monoxide is invisible and has no scent, and without a detector, there’s no way to know if it’s seeping into your house.

“That causes headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting,” the chief says. “A lot of people think they’re just getting a cold or the flu or getting sick, but really they could be having a carbon monoxide problem.” A good CO detector can cost as little as $15 and it could save your life.

Radio Iowa