ILLINOIS (WCIA) — As Illinoisans continue to turn up their thermostats to stay warm this winter season, potential carbon monoxide incidents increase. The Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is encouraging everyone to stay safe when it comes to carbon monoxide.

“Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas, so it’s very important to have working alarms in your home, which could save your life,” said Acting Illinois State Fire Marshal Dale Simpson. “It’s also important to check and test these alarms monthly and replace any broken or expired alarms with sealed 10-year battery alarms.”

The National Fire Incident Reporting System said Illinois fire departments responded to a total of 19,859 calls about carbon monoxide and were able to determine a CO leak at 9,478 of those locations in 2021.

OSFM shares some tips to keep in mind about winter heating safety:

  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional, and change furnace filters frequently.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters, or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep interior and exterior air vents clear of blockages or obstructions.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like a furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before being placed into a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
  • Create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Test smoke and CO alarms at least once a month and be familiar with the sounds they make.
  • Never use an oven or range to heat your home.
  • Remember to turn off portable or space heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors on each floor of your home and within 15 feet of each sleeping area.
  • CO detectors have a limited life span; check the manufacturer’s instructions for information on replacement.

OSFM said symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of the flu which include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness. Other signs of possible CO presence include condensation on walls and windows, house pets becoming sluggish and chronic odors from malfunctioning appliances.

They advise you to evacuate the building immediately if you suspect you may be experiencing these symptoms, smell natural gas leaking in your home, or if your CO alarm activates. They also advise leaving windows and doors open if possible and calling first responders once evacuated.

The National Fire Protection Association said heating is the second leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. Local fire departments across the country responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment per year in 2014-2018, accounting for 14% of all reported home fires during this time.

OSFM said space heaters lead to countless fires due to improper use during the winter months. They advise everyone to plug space heaters directly into wall outlets and not extension cords, keeping them at least three feet from curtains, clothing, furniture, or bedding.