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Tips to keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning

(Flickr Photo/HomeSpot HQ)

Recently, a young family died while sleeping in a cabin in the Flagstaff area where they were visiting for the holidays. Carbon monoxide poisoning was likely the cause of this tragedy.

The incident raised many questions about how an event like this could happen and should serve a reminder to everyone to be cautious about conditions in our own homes, as well as places that we might be visiting.

Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an average of 400 people die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless and tasteless gas that can bring on such symptoms as headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath, which are deceptively similar to what is experienced when visiting higher altitudes.

Although this recent tragedy occurred in a cabin in winter, carbon monoxide poisoning can happen in any home when fuel burns without adequate ventilation, according to Tom Reilly of Renovations, a Prescott firm that has done many remodels in northern Arizona cabins.

“The essential thing is to install a carbon monoxide detector, preferably one that works as a smoke detector as well,” Reilly says. “These detectors really do work.”

A battery-powered detector costs only $30 to $40. Most handheld digital models for use in traveling cost more. Consumer Reports also recommended buying detectors that have been tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories.

“Carbon monoxide can be present any time you burn any kind of fuel if the device involved is not properly vented,” Reilly said.

Some of the carbon monoxide devices involved can be a gas stove, water heater or furnace. It can also be a wood- or charcoal-burning fireplace, a camping lantern that burns liquid fuel or a stove that burns propane. Even a fireplace inside a home with a good-sized chimney can be a problem if the chimney isn’t cleaned regularly.

“The issue is that houses now are built very tightly so that no fresh air comes into a building,” Reilly said.

Here are some more tips to keep you and your family safe:

  • Never use a barbecue indoors
  • Never leave a car running inside a garage even with the door open
  • Never operate a diesel-powered generator indoors unless it’s near an open window
  • Be sure to have your heating and air conditioning system checked regularly

Even campers sleeping in tents should follow the same precautions.

For more homeowner advice, DIY tips and videos, and information about all the projects around your house, home, castle or cabin, visit Arizona’s largest collection of homeowner DIY advice and information at

And if you are in need of a quality contractor you know you can trust, visit our list of Arizona’s very best contractors or service providers for your home improvement projects at – Arizona’s most-trusted referral network.

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