saverElyria, OH -”This family is very, very lucky,” said Elyria Fire Department Capt. Joe Pronesti, and he couldn’t be more correct.

He was speaking earlier this week about the Wilsons on Southwood Drive, a family of five who came out OK after being treated for accidental carbon monoxide exposure.

Their good fortune should be a safety reminder for the rest of us about the need to have working carbon monoxide detectors in our homes, as well as smoke detectors.

The Wilsons had a carbon monoxide detector, and its alarm prompted them to call the fire department, which was exactly the right thing to do. Each year, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning kills about 500 Americans and sickens several thousand more, according to state safety officials.

Pronesti said a furnace vent pipe in the Wilson home froze, preventing the deadly gas from escaping to the outdoors. Instead, the carbon monoxide began to accumulate inside their house.

Carbon monoxide, called the ”silent killer,” is colorless, odorless and without taste. When people breathe it, the carbon monoxide latches itself tightly to the key spots in red blood cells where oxygen normally is supposed to ride on its life-sustaining journey to vital organs.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic the flu, so it can go unsuspected. The Wilsons told firefighters that they had been feeling sick for about a week.

As carbon monoxide begins to build up in the bloodstream, people experience symptoms that can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, chest pains and confusion, eventually leading to loss of consciousness, coma and death, safety officials note. Lethargic victims, don’t realize they’re in danger and just doze off, never to awaken.

Carbon monoxide is a product of combustion and is found in the fumes given off by cars, trucks, small gasoline engines (like those that run mowers and portable generators), stoves, lanterns, gas ranges, burning charcoal, fireplaces and wood stoves, safety officials warn.

Frigid winter days ahead mean families need to follow winter safety precautions that include proper use of carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors. Such safety information is available online from the state fire marshal’s office at

and the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness at

These detectors are inexpensive, and their life-saving abilities are beyond any price tag.