Henning Public Utilities departmetn reminds residents to watch for warning signs, call 911

By Chad Koenen

Publisher

Henning Public Utility staff is getting in touch with their inner motherly instincts as they share that “it is better to be safe than sorry” when it comes to potential carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks. As residents begin switching over from air conditioning to heating sources, the utility staff and emergency personnel are reminding residents about the danger surrounding natural gas leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Since carbon monoxide does not have an odor, or way to detect the gas naturally, carbon monoxide detectors are needed in each level of a home. 

Henning Police and Fire Chief Mike Helle said the detectors can be purchased in most hardware stores for a nominal price, but will go a long ways to potentially save a life in the event of carbon monoxide in a home. He said carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every 10 years as they can begin to lose their effectiveness over time. 

“A good rule of thumb is if (carbon monoxide detectors) are over 10 years old get a new one,” said Helle. 

The longtime Henning Police and Fire Chief said there should be one carbon monoxide detector on each level of a house, including one in the basement of a home by the furnace. Since a person cannot smell or see carbon monoxide the only way to know if the gas is in the house is through a alarm. He said some common signs of carbon monoxide to look for is red skin, feeling sick, headaches, nausea and feeling tired. 

Should a carbon monoxide detector go off, Helle said it is important for people to leave the house and call 911 right away. All-too-often people will assume the detector is faulty and will simply unplug it and go back to bed. A decision like that could end up costing someone their life as carbon monoxide poisoning can happen fast. 

“You can’t smell it, can’t see it. If there are detectors going off call 911,” he said.

A few years ago a Henning resident died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to an issue with their furnace. 

  Some of the common causes for carbon monoxide in a building can include snow blocking vents, a furnace in need of repair and even animals that get into the furnace system. As a result, utility worker Tim Angell said it is a good idea to have a furnace checked regularly by a licensed heating and cooling company to ensure a furnace is in proper working condition. 

In addition to carbon monoxide, Henning Public Utility workers are reminding residents of the importance of monitoring for natural gas leaks. As residents and business owners make the switch from having their air conditioner run to turning on the heat, natural gas leaks are important to monitor. 

Unlike carbon monoxide, natural gas has a pungent smell that utility worker Thomas Lee said unmistakable. 

“If you smell rotten eggs call 911 right away. Get out of the house and call 911,” he said. “Do not shut anything off, don’t touch anything, just call 911.”

Lee said even the smallest spark could result in an explosion if natural gas is in the air. That includes things like dialing 911 on a cell phone, static electricity, turning lights on and off, as well as turning on a flashlight.

“If conditions are right it could blow up,” said Lee.

In addition to a rotten egg smell, Lee said another sign of leaking natural gas is a hissing sound in the basement should the leak be big enough. Natural gas is lighter than air which means it will eventually rise to the highest level of a house. 

Even if someone isn’t quite sure if they have a natural gas leak, or carbon monoxide in their home, Lee said it is better to be safe than sorry and leave the house. 

When the snow begins to pile up this winter, Lee said it is important to keep the meters outside of a home clear of snow and ice. The meters are designed to be able to breathe and not blocked by piles of snow. In the event an elderly person needs help to keep their meter clear of snow Lee said the residents should call city hall and someone will assist them in clearing out the snow. 

Lee said city staff would be happy to lend a hand to ensure the safety of residents during the long winter season. 

In some cases the natural gas line leading up to the house can crack and leak. If someone hears a hissing sound or smells rotten eggs outside the home—leave the area immediately and call 911. If a person notices a patch of dead grass constantly in their yard or a group of bugs constantly congregate in one spot they should call 911 or city hall to see if there is a gas leak under ground. 

Henning Public Utility workers are also reminding residents to open their garage door when starting a vehicle in the winter. Since vehicles emit carbon monoxide, people can get poisoned by simply starting their car and letting it run for a while in an unventilated area.