When the temperature drops, the threat increases.
That threat is carbon monoxide, which kills more than 200 people each year and sickens thousands more, according to a statement issued by the Red Cross.
Capt. Wade Russell of the Unified Fire Authority called CO "the silent killer" — a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is emitted when combustible material, such as natural gas, propane, wood and coal, is incompletely burned.
If a home is vented, the gas can escape and there is no danger. If not, CO can build up to a toxic level, unnoticed by the senses but manifested through symptoms of nausea, headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and in the worst cases, death.
Faulty furnaces, improperly ventilated generators and automobile exhaust, using cook stoves and other appliances for heat, and burning charcoal indoors are but a few of the culprits in CO deaths and poisonings, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Web site.
A weapon in the fight against CO poisoning is a CO detector, a device that sounds an alarm when the the noxious gas is detected in the area. They can be purchased at most home improvement stores, and while the cost can be as high as $80, Russell said they are worth it.
"I think CO detectors are just as important as smoke detectors," he said.
He said to follow manufacturer's recommendations with respect to installation and placement but said typically CO detectors should be placed in hallways near sleeping areas in the residence, and on all levels of the house. Also, follow all directions on when to test, replace batteries, and replace the detector. Russel said detectors have an expiration date when they are no longer effective.
If the alarm sounds but nobody is suffering any symptoms, Russell suggested resetting the device. If it goes off again, or if anybody is suffering from symptoms that may indicate poisoning, 911 should be called immediately.
Other ways to prevent poisoning is to install properly and keep any fuel-burning appliances maintained, properly ventilating areas around the appliances, and making sure chimneys are clear of blockage.
For a complete carbon monoxide fact sheet visit utahredcross.org.