CHATHAM, NJ - The call came Saturday night during the blizzard. A carbon monoxide detector had gone off in a Chatham Borough home and the residents were in danger of having the heat shut off by PSE&G.
The call told Chatham Borough Fire Chief Doug Allan that snow can cause a number of dangerous situations that residents need to know about. The problem that night was a blocked gas furnace exhaust vent.
"The vapor traveled up the siding, up into the second-floor bedroom, where 50 parts per million of carbon monoxide (normal amount is up to 9 parts) was measured," Allan said. "The CO alarm activated. They had young kids and it could have started affecting them."
Allan and Chatham Borough Fire Marshall Walter Nugent advise all homeowners to check dryer vents and furnace exhausts to make sure that they are not blocked by the snow, returning carbon monoxide into the home.
"You want to have at least two Carbon Monoxide detectors in your home so if anything like this occurs, that's going to be the fail-safe to help you," Nugent said. "They're so important. Checking to make sure they are in working order is very important, too. That's why you need two, in case one is not working."
A simple action of just warming up your car in the driveway could cause a health problem if the tailpipe is blocked by snow.
"If someone were to just dig out their driveway and the car is running, you can get a dangerous amount of carbon monoxide in the car," Nugent said. "You want to clear around the tailpipe before you start the car."
Allan reported that Chatham Borough residents did a great job of clearing fire hydrants of snow. Chatham has 400 fire hydrants and residents cleared about 125 of them, making access by the fire department much easier.
Nugent also warned that in case of a power outage, portable generators should be placed at least 20 feet away from any opening in the house.