COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The recent death of a New Jersey mother and her one year old son during the severe winter weather up north highlights the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The mother and baby died while seeking shelter in their car, and the tailpipe was covered in snow.
"Carbon monoxide poisoning rises during winter and during storm outages when people don't have power and they more often go to alternative heat sources," said Adelaide Kirk, Executive Director of the Red Cross of West-Central Georgia.
These "creative" methods of keeping warm are keeping fire officials busy this winter. Earlier this month, one Columbus homeowner turned to a charcoal grill to heat their home, and while the risk of fire is high when using unconventional heating sources, another danger is present.
"The scary thing about carbon monoxide is that unlike smoke, obviously that we smell, carbon monoxide is kind of silent, a lot of times before it gets to a very hazardous level you'll see flu-like symptoms," said Columbus Fire Marshal Ricky Shores.
Columbus firefighters say they've responded to calls of carbon monoxide often when a gas appliance is to blame. They remind everyone not to use a grill, or camp stove in enclosed areas, and to avoid turning a gas powered appliance like a stove or dryer into a heating source.
"If you've got a gas fired appliance in your home, you certainly need to make sure that you've got a properly working carbon monoxide detector," said Shores.
While the gas is colorless and odorless, you can sometimes spot signs of carbon monoxide poisoning before it's too late.
"Dizziness, nausea, headaches those kinds of things, and you certainly want to immediately get to fresh air, and then call 911 if you suspect that," said Kirk.
Fire officials say they've seen an alarming amount of people here in the Valley without smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.The Red Cross spent the weekend installing more than 300 smoke detectors for local families.
Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors can be purchased at stores like Home Depot and Walmart for under $50.
The Red Cross will be out installing smoke detectors once again in February, although you can contact them at any time for a free alarm.