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Take caution when heating your home during an outage

Lawton_Oklahoma's recent ice storm has caused what's being called the biggest power outage in state history and this weekend's storm left nearly 426,000 people without power.  That's almost one out of every three people in the state.  Workers have been busy getting the power and heat back on, but not before some had to spend the night in the cold.

So, what would you do if the electricity went off?  What should you do?  There can be some danger when this happens especially if someone makes a bad or hasty decision out of desperation.  7News found that some used their ovens to heat their home during the blackout and we found that it's not only inefficient - it's potentially deadly. 

Kara Combs lives in Lawton but was staying at her parent's home in Elgin because of the storm but, they weren't ready for the outage either.  "It was probably about nine o'clock when everything went out," she says.  "We pretty much just toughed it out, with blankets, that's about all we had.  We didn't have any other source of heat."

A lot of other people in Elgin didn't either.  Half the town was without electricity or water.  "When it gets extremely cold, or the power goes out, people want to stay warm.  And they'll do just about anything to do so," says Chris Kilmer from the City of Lawton.  "We all want to stay warm and heat our homes but be very cautious how you are doing that, because a lot of the appliances or items put off carbon monoxide, which is very poisonous," he says.

You can also invest in a generator or a gas powered heater.  Ace Hardware Salesman Donald Patterson says generators are really big sellers and he also recommends heathers that use non-toxic fuels since heaters that use kerosene or other combustible fuels creates carbon monoxide emissions.  "My job is not just to sell you something.  I want you to be satisfied, but at the same time, I prefer you to be safe," he says.  And, certainly never use an outdoor grill indoors to heat your home or prepare your food.

The Oklahoma State Department of health says:

"During a power outage, never use generators, grills, or other gasoline-, propane-, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, garage or carport, or outside next to doors, windows or vents. These produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that can kill you or make you sick in minutes."

Place these devices outside as far as possible from windows, doors and vents. Get out of the house and seek immediate medical help if you or a family member has symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, including dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headache, confusion or loss of consciousness."

You should also have extra emergency supplies on hand, like flashlights and extra batteries, bottled water and non-perishable food items.  And, don't forget all weather radios, extra blankets and clothing, back up batteries and a first aid kit.  The most important thing is to make sure that you use sound judgment before heating or lighting your home using alternative methods and take proper precautions if you do - follow the advice of an expert.

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