Carbon monoxide is known as the "silent killer." It's an invisible, odorless gas that claims hundreds of lives each year across the country.

In light of a couple of local families having been overcome by carbon monoxide, the American Red Cross has some tips on how to prevent CO poisoning. The Northwest Louisiana Chapter is urging homeowners to install carbon monoxide alarms.

"Every home should have at least one carbon monoxide alarm, in addition to their smoke alarms," says ARC Executive Director Reid Brau. "Both carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are relatively expensive and easy-to-maintain devices that have been proven to save lives. There are even models that feature a combined smoke and carbon monoxide alarm."

The Red Cross suggests you follow these safety recommendations:

Install CO alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Avoid corners where air doesn't circulate, and test those alarms every month.

Have heating systems, including chimneys and vents, inspected and serviced annually, checking for blockages, corrosion and partial and complete disconnections.

Never use a generator, grill or camp stove inside a home, garage or basement.

Do not use gas appliances, such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers, to heat your home.

Know the symptoms of CO poisoning -- headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness and confusion. If you suspect CO poisoning, move quickly to a fresh air location, then call 911.

Treat the alarm signal as a real emergency each time. If the alarm sounds and you are not experiencing any symptoms, press the reset button. If the alarm continues to sound, call the fire department.

CLICK HERE for more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information.