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Cold Front Preparation: Carbon Monoxide and Home Heating Safety

Red Cross Recommends You Prepare Vehicle Now for Winter Weather
"It’s critical to be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning."

With the coldest temperatures of the year forecast over the next few days, we wanted to share some important resources to help keep you and your families safe.

CARBON MONOXIDE SAFETY–In light of several recent carbon monoxide incidents that the Red Cross responded to (including one in Washington Heights last week and one in Bay Shore this past weekend), it’s critical to be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely.
  • A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
  • Individuals die when they improperly use gas generators, charcoal grills, and fuel-burning camping heaters and stoves inside their homes or in other enclosed or partially enclosed spaces during power outages.
  • Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, move quickly to a fresh air location, and then call 9-1-1.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas (avoid corners where air does not circulate). Test the alarm every month.
  • Treat the alarm signal as a real emergency each time. If the alarm sounds and you are not experiencing any symptoms described above, press the reset button. If the alarm continues to sound, call the fire department.
  • Do not use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat your home.
  • Never use a generator, grill or camp stove inside a home, garage or basement.
  • Have heating systems (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually, checking for blockages, corrosion, and partial and complete disconnections.
  • HOME HEATING SAFETY During the coldest months of the year, the Red Cross sees a spike in the number of home fires we respond to. This results in a larger number of residents who turn to the Red Cross for emergency assistance.

  • Heating fires are the second leading cause of home fires.
  • Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
  • Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.

  • Seven times a day someone in this country dies in a fire.
  • As part of a nationwide campaign to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent over the next five years the Red Cross also is urging every household in America to take the two simple steps that can save lives: ensure you have a working smoke alarm on every floor of your home and practice fire drills with your family (aim for 2 minutes to get to safety).
  • For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information, visit

  • Download the Red Cross First Aid App at to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies.

  • The Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters each year and the vast majority are home fires. You can help people affected by disasters like home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • About the American Red Cross:

    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @RedCrossNY.