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Keyword: carbon monoxide poisoning

Important Tips from Safety Experts

This kind of cold weather is not just unpleasant, it can be dangerous. Baltimore County’s safety experts have some important tips for protecting your home and family.

graphic of dripping faucet

DPW Says Let Faucets Drip

Baltimore County’s Department of Public Works advises homeowners to let water taps drip during this week’s extreme cold weather. During single-digit temperatures last year, more than 500 water meters froze. Maintaining the flow with a slow drip, say County engineers, will usually keep water in the pipes from freezing, and save homeowners considerable grief.

Last February Baltimore City (which maintains and repairs the metropolitan water system) was swamped with requests to thaw frozen meters. With the County's help, water service was quickly restored. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  

Power Outage Precautions

Power outages can go side-by-side with winter storms. Lights go out and some lose heat. When this happens some of us turn to generators to keep warm and informed.

Generators produce carbon monoxide, CO, a deadly gas. Keep your generator at least 15 feet from the house or building. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding use and review the Fire Department’s safety tips for portable generators.

For those who have gas stoves and ovens, never use an oven to heat your home!

Ice Can be Dicey

Cold weather along with snow and ice can be dangerous. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to problems in the winter.

Beware of “black ice” when you leave your home or work. What appears to be a wet surface can be very slick ice. Be cautious and take your time walking on this winter treat. This warning applies to driving too! Many accidents occur when black ice forms.

Ice melting products should be kept near the door along with your shovel. And beware of steps and handrails; they can be treacherous if not wiped down and salted.

Don’t Overdo with the Shoveling

Anyone who has heart disease or chronic lung disease should not shovel snow or scrap ice. Shoveling is hard on the heart muscles and can cause a cardiac event. Ask a friend, neighbor or relative, or hire someone to clear the sidewalk and driveway.

Stay Warm and Dry

When venturing out in the cold, wear a hat or scarf, warm gloves or mittens, and warm, dry socks inside your boots. Wear a heavy coat, jacket or dress in layers. If the wind is blowing then wear a scarf across your face. Wind burn is hard on the skin just like sun burn. Wear sunscreen in the winter.

And last but not least, remember your pets. They feel the cold as much as you do and rely on you to keep them safe and warm.

Louise Rogers-Feher
Public Safety Office of Media and Communications

chimneyEllen Kobler, Deputy Director

Baltimore County Office of Communications

In my family, Christmas season is greeted every year with mixed feeling as we think about some very special family members who we’ve lost at Christmastime over the years. The death of our Uncle Tony from carbon monoxide poisoning 12 years ago is particularly troubling because it could have been so easily prevented.

Uncle Tony was a jovial, “more the merrier” kind of man who always showed up at your house with a big smile, a bag full of groceries and helpful hints about everything under the sun. He was proud of his service as an Air Force pilot and prouder still of his 14 grandchildren. A contractor by trade, Tony and his son fixed up houses and sold them at a tidy profit. He could take apart and repair absolutely anything and was always volunteering to pitch in to help family and his multitude of friends.

Uncle Tony and Aunt Peggy thought he had the flu – headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea. Aunt Peggy’s sudden onset of heart palpitations was being monitored by a cardiologist. They didn’t know that carbon monoxide poisoning can produce the same symptoms.

Tony was a portly gentleman and the initial determination of a fatal heart attack seemed to make sense. Until the day of the funeral when other family members who had spent the night at the house came down with the same “flu.” My adult cousin Peg had gone to the ER with convulsions that were misdiagnosed as anxiety. Her brother Richard also went to the hospital that night. We found out during Tony’s funeral luncheon that their sickness was CO poisoning.

How ironic, that like many contractors, his own house was low on his list of priorities. My Aunt Peggy couldn’t remember the last time – if ever – that the furnace and flue had a routine inspection and cleaning. The buildup of carbon monoxide was caused by a concrete chunk that fell and blocked the furnace flue. There were no carbon monoxide detectors in the house.

Baltimore County actually requires CO Detectors in all rental housing and many owner-occupied homes. This is a smart policy that is proven to save lives.

So, my Christmas wish this year is that everyone who reads this will get their heating system inspected before the end of the year and add some $20 carbon monoxide detectors to their holiday shopping lists. It’s a gift that could save your life and the lives of the people you love.


Revised April 6, 2016