Friday, December 01, 2000

'SWAT' teams enter for safety

Sweep checks furnaces in 15 area homes

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A SWAT team entered 15 Northern Kentucky homes on Thursday, carrying not guns but gas meters, gas analyzers and briefcases filled with furnace-cleaning hand tools.

        The Severe Weather Action Team, a volunteer effort organized by Covington-based Knochelmann Service Experts, traversed Boone, Grant, Campbell and Kenton counties to guarantee that heat-generating furnaces are safe for the colder months and not likely to leak life-threatening carbon monoxide.

        Marna Mandarino, 37, of Newport, was pleased to hear the knock on the door Thursday morning. SWAT member Chris Kelly entered and went immediately to Mrs. Mandarino's basement. He opened the furnace door, and they both discovered that there was a dangerous “roll out” of flames.

[photo] Chris Kelly, technician with Knochelmann Service Experts, uses a carbon-monoxide detector to check the furnace in Marna Mandarino's Newport home.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        “Wow, you could have roasted marshmallows,” Mrs. Mandarino said. “I didn't expect such a big flame.”

        She felt safer knowing that a professional was taking care of the problem.

        Mr. Kelly said it was a definite safety hazard. He did his best “to make it as new as a 31-year-old furnace can get,” he said.

        According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington, D.C., 200 people die and 10,000 are treated in hospital emergency rooms because of carbon-monoxide poisoning that originated from fuel-burning appliances.

        Thursday's SWAT effort worked in conjunction with Northern Kentucky Community Action of Covington, which provides clothing, and rent and heating assistance to lower-income families. Knochelmann organized the SWAT effort, following the lead of its national headquarters in Dallas, Texas.

        “It's a national commitment. ... We like to keep our name out there in helping people,” said Sue Kaiser of Knochelmann. The company provides plumb ing, heating and air-conditioning services.

        Darla Griffin, director of Northern Kentucky Community Action's weatherization services, appreciated the SWAT work. She noted that the agency has a program that last year helped 85 homes in an eight-county region conserve heat.

        Caulking windows, installing insulation and replacing broken windows and heating systems are some of the services provided.

        The program “is pretty vital,” she said. “Demand increases at this time of year. People generally don't think about heating in the summer.”

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- 'SWAT' teams enter for safety
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