Office of Emergency Management
Carbon Monoxide Hazards During Winter
Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisonings usually occur during the winter months when people use heating sources that may produce hazardous CO levels. You can prevent CO poisoning by preparing your home heating sources for winter and by recognizing the symptoms of CO poisoning.
CO is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning any fuel. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) about 20,000 Americans are treated in emergency rooms each year because of CO exposure; exposure to high levels of CO can cause death.
Common symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, chest pain, nausea and vomiting.
You can protect yourself and your family from the dangers of CO poisoning by observing the following safety precautions:
- Install battery-operated CO alarms in your home, especially near heating sources. Change the batteries in the detector when you change your clocks from daylight saving time to standard time.
- Have a qualified technician check your heating systems, water heaters and other gas-, oil- or coal-burning appliances every year.
- Have your chimney and flue inspected and cleaned yearly.
- Do not use gas-powered appliances such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat your home.
- Do not use camp stoves or charcoal grills inside your home or in the garage.
- Do not operate a generator inside your home or garage. Only operate a generator outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to seep indoors.
- Do not run a vehicle inside your garage, even if the garage door is open.
If you think you've been exposed to CO seek medical attention immediately.
Get more information about CO poisoning at the CDC's website http://www.cdc.gov/co/default.htm.
(Source: Harris County Office of Emergency Management)
Here are some tips for dealing with freezing temperatures (remember the four "P's"):
- Keep warm, stay inside if possible.
- If you need to go out, dress in layers and wear hats, gloves and an appropriate coat.
- Avoid overexertion, as cold weather puts added strain on your body.
- Observe heater safety:
- Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
- Keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture and drapes.
- Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
- Bring pets inside, and move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas.
- Keep adequate food and water available.
- Disconnect outdoor hoses, drain and store in protected area.
- Wrap exposed faucets and pipes - including those outside the house or in unheated crawl spaces, attics, garages and other areas.
- Bring potted plants inside or store in garage near interior wall to provide extra warmth and protection from wind.
- For cold-sensitive outdoor plants, put down extra mulch and consider covering with a cloth fabric of some kind to shield the plants from wind and frost.
Protect yourself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing a battery-operated CO detector and never using generators, grills, camp stoves, or similar devices indoors.
It is also recommended that you prepare your car for winter. Have your car serviced and add antifreeze as needed.
Finally, keep emergency supplies at hand and stay informed about the weather conditions in our area by visiting our website http://www.hcoem.org/.
(Source: Harris County Office of Emergency Management)
Safety Tips During Winter Storm Weather
To stay safe during severe winter weather in the greater Houston area:
- Stay indoors as much as possible.
- If going outside wear layers of clothing to keep you warm.
- Wear gloves or mittens, a hat and enclosed shoes or boots to prevent loss of body heat.
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy walkways.
- Avoid overexertion – heart attacks are a leading cause of deaths during severe winter weather.
- Avoid traveling by car until conditions have improved.
- Listen to local radio or television stations for updates.
- If driving:
- Keep the gas tank full for emergency use.
- Let someone know your destination, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to reach your destination.
- If your vehicle stalls/stops, stay with your car and tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see.
- Start the car and use the heater for about ten minutes every hour.
- Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so you can be seen.
- Move your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm while you sit.
- Keep one window slightly open to let in air.
- Help a neighbor who may require special assistance, especially families with infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
(Source: American Red Cross)
Severe Weather Tips
Tips for Safe Driving:
- Allow for more travel time. You should plan to drive at a slower pace than normal when the roads are wet.
- Brake earlier and with less force than you would normally.
- Avoid crossing flooded areas.
- Turn on your headlights, even when there's a light sprinkle.
- Watch out for pedestrians. Keep a sharp lookout for people in the road.
- Pull over and wait it out, if it is raining so hard that you cannot see the road or the car in front of you.
- Give a truck or bus extra distance.
- Defog your windows.
Play it smart, play it safe. Whether driving or walking, any time you come to a flooded road, TURN AROUND, DON'T DROWN!
Turn Around, Don't Drown (TADD): http://tadd.weather.gov/tadd-intro.shtml
National Weather Service (NWS): http://www.nws.noaa.gov/
Be Prepared…Stay Safe!