FORT KNOX, Ky. — Wintertime is almost here; time to pull those heavy coats and scarves out of storage, snuggle up next to the furnace, and check those CO detectors.Winter is the time to test, and maybe even replace, carbon monoxide alarms mounted within the home, say Fort Knox Fire Department and Knox Hills officials.“They’re extremely important, especially this time of year as the weather turns colder,” said Mike Patterson, assistant fire chief at Fort Knox Fire Department. “There are some extra precautions people need to take.”Patterson said a lot of housing residences have gas fired heaters, ovens, water heaters and furnaces, which work well but require some maintenance.“We typically have problems with [furnaces] in the wintertime, especially with the filters,” Patterson said. “People forget to periodically have those filters cleaned.”Patterson said the fire department works with Knox Hills to get the word out about cleaning or replacing filters and testing CO detectors in time for the colder weather.“We had a couple of calls from it,” said Patterson, “so anytime we have a trend, we’ll put information out.”Carbon monoxide is commonly referred to as the invisible killer. According to the National Safety Council, that’s because it “is an odorless, colorless [and tasteless] gas that often goes undetected, striking victims caught off guard or in their sleep.”More than 400 people die in the United States from carbon monoxide poisoning every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 20,000-plus visit an emergency room, and over 4,000 are hospitalized because of CO.The gas is produced when fuel is burned from automobiles, generators, lanterns and fireplaces, small engines like lawn mowers, and gas appliances. The danger comes when the gas gets trapped in a confined space, although the Council warns that ventilation is not necessarily a guarantee of safety.That’s where CO detectors come into play.Patterson said home owners should ensure they have detectors mounted in the right places, and then test them regularly by depressing a button, usually on the front of the devices, until they respond. If a battery operated device doesn’t, the batteries should be replaced — usually twice a year when daylight saving time begins and ends — and the device retested. If it still doesn’t work, the device should be replaced.“For most detectors, you want to replace them about every five years,” said Patterson. “Sometimes those sensors will get dirty and bad after time.”Carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air. Because of this, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends they be installed on hallway walls adjoining sleeping areas about five feet above the floor.Staci Burton, Communities marketing manager from Knox Hills, said Fort Knox has CO detectors in every home, but residents are responsible for testing the device monthly.“All homes at Knox Hills are equipped with a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector,” said Burton. “These devices must not be deactivated or removed.”Unlike with private home owners, residents on post are required to call in any defective or inoperable devices to the Knox Hills maintenance department at 502-799-6565.The CDC recommends that home owners have the furnace, hot water heater, fireplaces and gas or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician annually; avoid the use of portable, flameless chemical heaters inside; ensure that the fireplace damper is open before and after using the fireplace each time; and never warm up an automobile inside the garage, even with the garage door open.Patterson warned residents and home owners to also never run a generator inside or near to the home — less than 20 feet from an opening.“A lot of times people will lose power, and they use generators,” said Patterson. “They’ll have them too close to their windows. I’ve even heard of people using them inside their home, which is definitely not safe.”If an alarm goes off, the Council recommends residents to move outside immediately, call emergency services, make sure every member of the family is accounted for, and stay outside until responders give the all-clear.“Make sure you have a plan in place to safely and quickly get out of the home,” said Patterson, “then call 9-1-1 and let us do what we are trained to do.”__________________________________________________Editor’s Note: Fort Knox residents with more questions can visit the Knox Hills website at http://www.knoxhills.com. For more information about detectors, visit the National Safety Council website HERE or the National Fire Protection Association website HERE.