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Carbon monoxide exposure incidents increase 10 percent during winter
CenterPoint Energy provides tips to keep your family safe

MINNEAPOLIS – January 21, 2014 – Carbon monoxide (CO) incidents increase by more than 10 percent during the winter months and is often called the silent killer.  CO is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas and when inhaled, it enters the blood stream preventing proper absorption of oxygen, which can lead to illness and even death.  According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System, municipal fire departments across the country respond to more than 60,000 CO incidents each year. 

“Typically, CO is created when fuels such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil or methane don’t burn completely,” said Tim Boettcher, master service technician for CenterPoint Energy’s Home Service Plus®. “Home heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel inadequately can be sources of carbon monoxide.” 

 “According to the Minnesota Poison Control Center, there are thousands of deaths each year as a result of carbon monoxide, making it the leading cause of death due to poisoning,” said Perry Ebner, Minneapolis Fire Marshall. “Additionally, our response to non-fire related CO incidents increase by 10 percent during the winter, so the time for prevention is now.”
CenterPoint Energy reminds the public of important safety tips about how to recognize the symptoms of and avoid CO exposure

• Physical symptoms of CO exposure can resemble the flu causing headaches, nausea, fatigue, confusion and dizziness that disappear when a person breathes fresh air.
• Unusually high indoor humidity with persistent heavy condensation on walls and windows and soot or water collecting near a burner or vent can indicate a CO problem.
• Stuffy or stale indoor air.

If you suspect CO exposure, leave the area immediately taking your pets with you and tell others to do the same. Once you are safely away from the area, call 911 to report the suspected CO incident.

Treatment for CO exposure is fresh air or oxygen. Severe exposure requires medical attention. Do not return to your home or building until the source of the problem is discovered and corrected. 

To prevent CO build up:

• Purchase a CO detection device with an audible alarm and digital display and install it no more than 10 feet from each sleeping quarter, as required by law. Fuel-burning appliances, equipment and combustible engines all produce CO that can reach dangerous levels if improperly operated or maintained.  
• Have fuel-burning equipment regularly checked by a qualified technician (most manufacturers recommend annual check-ups).
• Never operate an automobile, lawn mower or any combustion engine, barbecue grill or similar equipment in an enclosed area such as your home, garage, tent, fish
house, trailer or place of business, even with the door open. Any pollutants in the air from the garage, such as a car engine running, can travel into the structure and CO can accumulate.
• Never leave a fire smoldering in a fireplace.
• Check frequently for visible signs of problems, such as high indoor humidity and soot or water collecting near a burner or vent. 
• Equipment that uses natural gas should produce a clear blue flame. A yellow or orange flame may indicate a qualified technician should check for a potential problem with the equipment. When natural gas equipment is properly operated and maintained, it usually will not produce CO.
• Provide adequate combustion air for all your appliances.
• Be certain fuel-burning equipment properly vents to the outdoors.
• Keep vents, fresh air intakes and chimneys clear of debris or other obstructions and check for vent pipes that have gaps, leaks and spaces or are rusted through.
• Never attempt to heat a room with a natural gas range, oven or clothes dryer.

For more information about natural gas safety, visit www.centerpointenergy.com/besafe or call 612-372-4727 or 1-800-245-2377.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission & distribution, natural gas distribution and competitive natural gas sales and services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. The company also owns a 58.3 percent limited partner interest in a midstream partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp. with operations in major natural gas and liquids-rich producing areas of Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. With more than 8,700 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 135 years. The utility also operates a non-regulated business in Minnesota called Home Service Plus®. For more information, visit CenterPointEnergy.com.