Now that we have seen our first snow and the thermometer is regularly falling below freezing, I thought it might be helpful to share some information on keeping safe and warm during these cold and challenging weather conditions.

Over the next few months, we will all rely heavily on our heating systems and while it is easy to forget, there are certain risks involved with heating our homes and vehicles. Carbon monoxide, or CO, is produced when we burn fuel in vehicles, small engines, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, generators and furnaces. CO is an invisible, odorless and tasteless gas that causes nausea, dizziness, and confusion. At higher levels it can even be deadly.

The winter months pose the greatest risk to ourselves and family because our homes are more tightly sealed and snow can build up and block exhaust vents, causing CO to build up inside. So making sure you keep your home’s furnace and fireplace vents clear from snow can be a lifesaver.

One of the primary causes of carbon monoxide poisoning is the improper use of generators. Gas-powered generators need to be outside to avoid dangerous gas buildup in unventilated spaces. Here in Maine, where power outages are frequent and many people use generators for backup, we must be especially vigilant and smart using our generators.

Luckily, many Maine homes are equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. Thanks to a bill by my Democratic colleague, Sen. Bill Diamond, even more places where people live will be required to have CO detectors starting on Jan. 1.

The new CO detector law requires carbon monoxide detectors in all higher educational facilities, including the fraternity houses, sorority houses and dormitories on school campuses; all lodging places like hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts; and all daycare centers, shelters and residential care facilities.

But just having a detector isn’t enough. It’s also crucial to make sure it’s working. So test your CO detector, and change the batteries if necessary.

By looking out for each other, we can ensure all Mainers are safe and warm in their homes this season. There’s a lot more to winter safety than carbon monoxide poison prevention. I could take up this whole newspaper, and not cover all the bases.

Luckily, the Maine Emergency Management Agency has lots of tips to keep you and your family safe. For more information, visit

Sen. David Dutremble represents Senate District 32 which includes Alfred, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman.

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