When it comes to winter safety, Mifflin Township Fire Chief Timothy Taylor said, an ounce of prevention and education is worth a pound of heartburn and headache.
Taylor said the division every year responds to chimney fires at the beginning of the heating season, most of which could have been prevented by having the chimney inspected for cracks and cleaned prior to using.
Keeping the size of the fire to that which the fireplace was designed, he said, could prevent future cracks from occurring.
Taylor said warming a car in an attached garage invariably leads to a spike in carbon monoxide buildup within the home that could last for hours even after the car has left the premises or has been turned off.
"Every year, we respond to numerous carbon-monoxide detector activations where we narrow the culprit down by process of elimination to a car in the garage," he said. "Carbon monoxide bonds with hemoglobin 200 times more readily than it does oxygen and takes hours to release back out of the body once out of a carbon-monoxide-rich environment. If a person remains in a carbon-monoxide-rich environment regardless of the source, the CO builds up over time that can lead to flu-like symptoms and eventually even death."
Taylor said extreme cold temperatures such as those experienced recently could increase vulnerability to carbon-monoxide poisoning.
Residents are advised not to run a car or truck inside a garage attached to the house, even if you leave the garage door open, because car exhaust could infiltrate a home unknowingly.
To help decrease the likelihood of falling victim to this invisible killer, the Centers for Disease Control recommends an annual heating system inspection by a qualified technician for a water heater and any other gas, oil or coal-burning appliances.
Residents also should install a battery-operated or battery backup carbon-monoxide detector in their homes and check or replace the battery when changing the time on clocks each spring and fall.
If the detector sounds, residents should leave their homes immediately and call 911.
Residents should seek prompt medical attention if they suspect carbon-monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous.
According to the CDC, residents shouldn't use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline- or charcoal-burning device inside a home, basement or garage or near a window.
The CDC also advises homeowners not to burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn't vented.
Finally, according to the CDC, homeowners shouldn't heat their homes with a gas oven.