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New Student Loan Program Posted January 21, 2019

Prospective college students who may be applying for financial aid this year are encouraged to consider the new PA Forward Student Loan Program. The PA Forward State Grant Program provides low-cost, alternative student loans for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as loans for parent borrowers.

The program is designed to complement other forms of student aid, such as the PA State Grant Program and low-cost federal loans. Pennsylvania students who need help paying for college after exhausting their eligibility for gift aid and low-cost federal student loans are encouraged to apply. Additionally, borrowers who are in repayment and want to combine their debt after graduation to outstanding student debts and achieve a lower monthly payment can benefit from a PA Forward Refinance Loan.

PHEAA is the lender and servicer of the loans, with tax-exempt financing provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

PA Forward participants can borrow up to the total cost of attendance with competitively low interest rates. There are immediate credit approvals and flexible repayment options, with no application or origination fees. Borrowers can get discounted interest rates by enrolling in an automatic direct debit repayment program and simply by graduating.

Borrowers can receive a .25 percent interest rate reduction for enrolling in an automatic direct debit program and an additional .50 percent interest rate reduction for achieving successful graduation. Borrowers also benefit from a six-month grace period after graduation before the first payment is due. This allows borrowers time to get their finances in order, including time to find a job, before repayment begins. Borrowers who take full advantage of the program's benefits could save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

PHEAA encourages students and their families to exhaust all eligibility for grants and scholarships before considering a student loan. When borrowing is necessary, students should first apply for low-cost federal student loans before turning to an alternative student loan, which may have higher interest rates.

To help students make informed choices about their higher education funding plans that can prevent unnecessary or excessive borrowing, PHEAA created www.mysmartborrowing.org. This free resource helps users understand how different career, school, and financial decisions made during the college planning process can influence their total cost of an education and their ability to repay any student loans after graduation.

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New Reporting Tool Available January 21, 2019

A tool for reporting suspicious activity surrounding the prescribing or dispensing of prescription drugs, including opioids, has been created. The tool will be available on the attorney general's website at https://pennsylvania.pmpaware.net, on the Department of Health's website at www.health.pa.gov, and within the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) site for registered users at https://pennsylvania.pmpaware.net/.

By making the attorney general's suspicious activity reporting tool available on the PDMP and the Department of Health's website, another layer of safety is added for the responsible prescribing of controlled substances such as opioids. The illegal diversion of prescription pain pills from doctors' offices and pharmacies is contributing to the opioid epidemic across the commonwealth, but diversion activity is hard to identify and even harder to investigate. The new reporting tool, which is available online to everyone, allows people to anonymously give the attorney general's office detailed information about suspected diversion so criminal activity can be better investigated and prosecuted.

The attorney general's Office of Diversion created the suspicious activity report form, a web-based form, for health care providers and the general public to report suspicious activity involving prescription medication. Things that might be reported include fraudulent, stolen, or altered prescriptions; a suspicious doctor or pharmacy; or an individual obtaining prescription drugs for any purpose other than the treatment of an existing medical condition, such as for purposes of misuse, abuse, or diversion.

Completed reports are assigned to the appropriate attorney general's office investigator in the region where the suspicious activity is alleged to have taken place. Those with an active Pennsylvania professional license that permits them to prescribe or dispense medications must register to use the PDMP. Authorized users include prescribers, dispensers, the attorney general's office (on behalf of law enforcement), designated commonwealth personnel, and medical examiners or county coroners.

More than 90,000 registrants have conducted approximately 1.6 million patient searches each month. The PDMP online database allows prescribers and dispensers of controlled substances to monitor who is obtaining opioids, who prescriptions are being obtained from, and how often they are prescribed, and it also supports clinicians in identifying patients who may be struggling from the disease of addiction and help connect them with treatment services.

For more information on the PDMP, readers may visit https://pennsylvania.pmpaware.net/.

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Assistance Hours Posted For Veterans January 16, 2019

Rep. Kate Klunk will host Veterans' Outreach Days twice a month at her district office, located at 118 Carlisle St., Suite 300, Hanover. Veterans' outreach assistance with a representative from the American Legion will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Tuesday and from 2 to 6 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month. In the coming months, the program will be held on Feb. 12 and 26, March 12 and 26, and April 9 and 23.

Some of the services available to veterans and their dependents include assistance with compensation, pension claims, death benefits, education and health care, as well as any issues pertaining to veterans' benefits. All veterans and their spouses are encouraged to sit down with a veteran service officer to understand what services may be available for them.

Appointments must be made in advance by contacting Klunk's office at 717-630-8942.

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Students Attend Government Simulation Event January 9, 2019

Twelve Middletown Area High School (MAHS) students joined fellow high school students from York, Dauphin, and Lebanon counties at the state Capitol on Nov. 8, 2018, for Senator for a Day, hosted by state Sen. Mike Folmer. The MAHS students were escorted by the school's government and economics teachers, Josh Rytel and Dale Shreiner. The MAHS delegation arrived at the Capitol in time to take part in a breakfast, which was followed by an instructional session during which Folmer and his chief of staff explained step by step how a bill becomes law.

Afterward, students began the government simulation. They took part in committee meetings, where they focused on amending and passing two bills that would be debated in a general Senate session later in the day. MAHS students were active in amending and strengthening bills before they went before the general Senate. Students were in their committees until lunch.

Following lunch with Folmer, students attended the general Senate session. Folmer presided over the session, where students debated the bills that had been approved by their respective committees. Some of these bills included a bill that ended property taxes and a bill that allowed for audio recordings on school buses. Middletown students were very active in floor debate. Senior Marcus Williams sponsored a bill that required drug testing for welfare recipients, which he had to present before the Senate. He successfully saw the bill passed.

Before leaving, Shreiner and Rytel took the students on a tour of the Capitol, including visits to the House of Representatives and Senate chambers. Students also stopped for photos in the Rotunda and outside the Capitol.

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County Announces Its 500th Preserved Farm January 8, 2019

Chester County recently signed contracts on the preservation of its 500th farm, bringing the total number of farm acres preserved in the county to just under 40,000. In total, more than 136,000 acres - 28 percent - of land in Chester County has been preserved since the beginning of its open space preservation program in 1989.

The recently preserved 109-acre farm, owned by Gerald and Cindy Rohrer, is located in Upper Oxford and West Fallowfield townships. It has been a family farm since 1966, when Gerald's parents took it on as dairy farm. Over the years, the farm changed to raising heifers before moving to crop farming. Gerald, the youngest of five children, and Cindy took over the farm in 2001, and today the Rohrers grow corn for livestock consumption, hay for the equine industry and mulch hay for the mushroom industry. The family also runs a small sideline business of trucking for agriculture haulage.

Chester County's Agricultural Preservation program began in 1989 when the resolution was adopted. The first farm was preserved in Newlin Township in 1990, and over the years, the county has contributed more than $106 million toward farmland preservation.

Farm preservation in Chester County is based on an agricultural conservation easement. Farms that are 10 acres or more are eligible if they are adjacent to permanently preserved land. Farms not adjacent to permanently preserved land must be a minimum of 50 acres for the state/county program and 25 acres in size for the Municipal Challenge Grant program.

Chester County farm owners may review the eligibility requirements for preservation by visiting http://www.chesco.org/1368/Farm-Programs-Overview. The deadline for applications is Aug. 1 of each year.

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Unclaimed Property Listed January 3, 2019

State Sen. Andy Dinniman reminds residents to check with the Pennsylvania Treasury's Bureau of Unclaimed Property to see if there is property waiting for them to claim.

The Treasury returned hundreds of millions in unclaimed property to Pennsylvanians last year. Still, there is more than $3.4 billion in unclaimed property waiting to be claimed by its rightful owners and about 1 in 10 residents have unclaimed property waiting for them.

Individuals may search the registry by visiting www.patreasury.gov or calling the Treasury's Bureau of Unclaimed Property toll-free at 800-222-2046.

Unclaimed property is any financial asset that has gone unclaimed for a period of time, usually three years. Under Pennsylvania law, businesses are required to report this to Treasury, which serves as the custodian until it can find and verify its rightful legal owner. The registry includes items from forgotten bank accounts and stocks, uncashed checks, and rebates, the contents of safety deposit boxes and other unclaimed property.

Dinniman encourages local residents to search the database and see if the Treasury may be holding unclaimed property for them.

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Jones Opens District Office December 26, 2018

State Rep. Mike Jones' district office at 305 Leader Heights Road, York, is open for residents of the 93rd Legislative District. The 93rd Legislative District consists of the boroughs of Cross Roads, Dallastown, Fawn Grove, Jacobus, Loganville, Seven Valleys, Shrewsbury, Stewartstown, Winterstown, and Yoe, as well as the townships of East Hopewell, Fawn, Hopewell, North Hopewell, Springfield, and York.

Swearing-in day was Jan. 1, but Jones' term in office actually began Dec. 1. Normal business hours for the district office will be weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The office will be open on Wednesday, Jan. 2, through Friday, Jan. 4, during the week of New Year's Day.

The legislative services in the district office can provide include original birth and death certificates, applications for Pennsylvania's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and PACE and PACENET applications for seniors.

Constituents can also reach the district office by calling 717-428-9889. The telephone number for Jones' Harrisburg office in Room 409 of the Irvis Office Building is 717-783-8389.

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Organization To Offer Internships December 24, 2018

The Central Pennsylvania Congressional Internship Association, formerly the Fourth Congressional District Internship Association, has announced it is accepting applications from local college students with an interest in growing their leadership skills through public service during a 10-week paid summer internship program with a member of Congress.

Taking place from May through August, the Summer Internship Program awards several area college students a chance to experience the realities of public service through full-time internships with Congressman Scott Perry, who serves the 10th Congressional District, encompassing Dauphin County and parts of York and Cumberland counties.

Undergraduate college students who are residents of the 10th Congressional District of Pennsylvania and have completed their freshman year of undergraduate studies by the beginning of the internship are eligible to apply.

Each intern will spend five weeks in Washington, D.C., assisting with legislative projects and also spend five weeks assisting with constituent casework in one of Perry's district offices in the Harrisburg area.

Thanks to financial donations from members of the Central Pennsylvania Congressional Internship Association and other donors, the interns receive a weekly stipend, and intern housing is provided at no charge while the interns work in Washington, D.C. Housing is not provided while the interns work in the district offices.

Notable program alumni include Pennsylvania state Rep. Kate Klunk and Chris Gray, senior adviser to the Office of the Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Interns are selected based on academic performance, extracurricular activities, and their demonstrated commitment to the ideals of public service. The selection of interns is made on a nonpartisan basis.

Internship applications can be downloaded from www.cpacia.org. The 2019 application deadline is Friday, Jan. 18.

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Support Grants Available December 24, 2018

State Cultural and Historical Support Grants are now available for qualified museums and official county historical societies. This is the sixth year that the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PMHC) has worked with the state legislature to provide funding for museums through the grant program. A total of $2 million was included in the 2018-19 state budget for the initiative.

The Cultural and Historical Support Grant program is restricted to eligible organizations that are not supported by other state agency funding programs, including museums located in Pennsylvania with annual operating budgets exceeding $100,000 and at least one full-time professional staff person. Some museums are not eligible if they are eligible for grant support from other state agencies. The maximum award for a museum is $65,000.

In addition, official county historical societies are eligible to apply. The awards for Official County Historical Societies range from $2,500 to $4,000.

Applicants must meet organizational eligibility requirements. Awards are based on a calculation that uses the operating budget from the most recently completed fiscal year.

Applications must be received by Friday, Jan. 25. All PHMC grant applications are now submitted on the commonwealth's Single Application for Assistance system at www.esa.dced.state.pa.us. Eligibility information and grant guidelines can be found at www.phmc.pa.gov.

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Citizen Survey Results Posted December 18, 2018

As part of the formal review of Chester County's strategic plan, Chester County commissioners recently announced the results of a citizen survey, undertaken as part of the review process for the strategic plan's next five years. Results of the Chester County Quality of Life Survey, conducted by West Chester University's Center for Social and Economic Policy Research during September, are based on a random sample of 1,256 responses, evenly represented from all areas of Chester County. The results provide a comparison to the citizens' surveys undertaken in 2009 and 2013, which helped form the basis of the commissioners' strategic plan goals.

In 2018, residents continue to give Chester County high ratings in terms of it being an excellent or good place to raise a family (94 percent) and nine out of 10 (91 percent) rate it as an excellent or good place to obtain a good education. The survey reported a significant increase in those who found the county an "excellent or good" place to find a good job (moving from 62 percent in 2013 to 79 percent in 2018).

The percentage of residents describing Chester County as a better place to live increased from 25 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2018. Open space, scenery, and rural areas continue to be noted by respondents as the best thing about life in Chester County, and this year's survey highlighted "maintenance of water quality" and "providing quality services while maintaining low taxes" as the two most important issues facing Chester County.

For questions about the importance of issues facing Chester County, the top three results stating "most important or one of the most important" were maintaining the quality of water (83 percent), providing quality services while maintaining low taxes (81 percent), and the preservation of open space (77 percent). The issue of growth and land development in the county (55 percent) moved up in importance from the 2013 survey level of 42 percent.

As in the two previous surveys, emergency services and the 911 system remain the most important services available to Chester County residents. Eighty-five percent of survey respondents claimed that emergency services and the 911 system are "very important" (up from 81 percent in 2013), and 77 percent confirmed that they would be very willing or somewhat willing to pay more county taxes for emergency services and the 911 system (up from 71 percent in 2013).

In addition to "quality of life" questions, the citizen survey addresses the performance of county employees. Of all residents surveyed in 2018, 38 percent indicated that they had contact with county employees in the past 12 months. Residents who rated employee responsiveness as "excellent" continued to increase - from 40 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2013 to 50 percent in 2018. County employee courteousness was rated as excellent or good by nine out of 10 respondents.

When asked what kind of job the county is doing in specific areas, the 2018 survey noted that 86 percent of respondents believe that the county is doing an excellent or good job at maintaining county parks, followed by ensuring public safety (82 percent) and preventing epidemics or public health hazards (81 percent).

A summary of the Chester County Quality of Life Survey may be viewed on www.chesco.org.

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Program Aids Local Pets December 18, 2018

Henry's Helping Paws Program, the initiative founded by state Sen. Andy Dinniman and his wife, Margo, to keep people and their pets together, is now delivering free dog and cat food, along with vital veterinary medical services, to more local senior citizens in need and their pets. Recently, Dinniman was joined by his rescue poodle, Jagger, and representatives from the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation (PVF) to make the first delivery of dog and cat food to the Coatesville Area Senior Center.

Named for Henry, the Dinniman family's standard poodle that died in December 2014, Henry's Helping Paws Fund was launched in conjunction with Meals on Wheels of Chester County in 2016. Dinniman said he came up with the idea for a mobile food pantry when he heard about senior citizens and disabled residents on low or fixed incomes who are homebound and struggle to afford adequate food, pet care items, and veterinary medical services for their pets. According to Dinniman, besides keeping people and their pets together in their homes, the program also aims to take the burden off rescue organizations that are overwhelmed with surrendered animals. Dr. Tom Garg of Hope Veterinary Specialists worked with Dinniman to develop the program and assists the PVF in running the program.

Henry's Helping Paws Program currently delivers pet food to several dozen senior citizens who are homebound or lack transportation. The program is administered by the PVF with the help of donations from PetSmart Charities. Last year, the program began deliveries of pet food and care items to the Phoenixville Senior Center to meet the need of local seniors in feeding and caring for their dogs and cats. Pet health care events are scheduled to take place in the 2019 in both Coatesville and Phoenixville.

This year, Dinniman and PVF announced they are not only expanding Henry's Helping Paws to serve additional senior centers in Chester County, but they are also expanding its scope to include health care vouchers that can be used at designated veterinary hospitals and mobile veterinary practices. Seniors in need, identified by the senior centers and/or Meals on Wheels, will be eligible to receive a voucher, valued at $250, to cover costs for their pet's health care at Pennsylvania Veterinary Association designated hospitals. Participants whose pets require more extensive medical treatment can have their veterinarian request additional assistance from PVF's Last Chance program.

Pet food, care items, and veterinary services for Henry's Helping Paws Fund are funded by private and corporate donors through the PVF, the charitable arm of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association. Both Meals on Wheels and the senior centers distribute the food to the participants. In addition, representatives from local senior centers, senior housing facilities, and other nonprofits identify eligible homebound pet owners in need.

To learn more about Henry's Helping Paws Fund, readers may visit www.pavetfoundation.org.

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Lawmaker Opens District Office December 14, 2018

State Rep.-elect Andrew Lewis has opened his office to serve the residents of the 105th Legislative District in Dauphin County. Lewis intends to retain the office operated by his predecessor at 4401 Linglestown Road, Suite B, Harrisburg. The office may be reached by phone at 717-652-3721.

Services available at the office include driver's license and vehicle registration applications and renewals, assistance with PennDOT paperwork (lost cards, changes, corrections, special registration plates, vanity plates and temporary placards for persons with disabilities), PACE and PACENET applications for seniors, property tax/rent rebate applications when available, voter registration forms, state tax forms, student aid applications, free state maps, state park information, state vacation guides, and referrals to agencies to resolve state-related matters.

Lewis also encourages residents to visit www.Facebook.com/RepAndrewLewis and www.RepLewis.com to sign up for regular email updates featuring state and local news.

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Remembrance Ceremony Held December 14, 2018

Sailors from Navy Operational Support Center Harrisburg participated in the 77th anniversary Pearl Harbor Remembrance Ceremony at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg on Dec. 7.

Sailors and Marines from across central Pennsylvania participated in the ceremony to honor families affected by the attack on Pearl Harbor and Pearl Harbor survivors from Pennsylvania, including Army Air Corps Lt. Col. William Bonnelli, Army Air Corps Master Sgt. Isaac George, Army Air Corps Maj. Henry Heim, and Army Staff Sgt. Richard Schimmel. During the ceremony, Gov. Tom Wolf and Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic, Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command and 48th Chief of Supply Corps, gave remarks.

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Museum Holds Remembrance Event December 12, 2018

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Marsico Recognizes School's 100th Anniversary December 12, 2018

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Basketball Team Receives Citation December 11, 2018

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PCCD Opens New Grant Application December 10, 2018

Municipalities, institutions of higher education, counties, and community-based organizations implementing violence-prevention initiatives can apply to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) for competitive grant funding. Applicants for 2019 Community Violence Prevention Grants may submit proposals for one-time events or for one- or two-year projects and may request up to $350,000.

All applications must be submitted by Thursday, Feb. 7. Awards will be approved and announced at the public meeting of the School Safety and Security Committee in April. Projects should begin on Wednesday, May 1.

Those interested in applying may visit www.pccdegrants.pa.gov/Egrants/Public/OpenAnnouncements.aspx. Interested applicants who are not already registered in PCCD's E-grants system must register before applying at www.pccd.pa.gov/Funding/Pages/Egrants-Home.aspx.

The funding for this grant became available in 2018-19 under Act 44 of 2018. The act established the School Safety and Security Grant Program and specified that up to 12.5 percent, or $7.5 million, would be earmarked for community violence prevention.

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Schools Receive State Funding December 7, 2018

Two area career and technical schools have been awarded state funding totaling nearly $57,000 for equipment purchases that will enhance their training programs. Dauphin County Technical School received $40,100 for its construction trade and automobile technician programs. Lebanon County Career and Technology Center was awarded $16,860 for its electromechanical and plumbing programs.

A total of $1.2 million in competitive grants was awarded to 38 career and technical centers and area vocational technical education schools across the state.

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Officials Graduate From CCAP Academy December 5, 2018

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) Academy for Excellence in County Government recently graduated 22 county officials from its program during ceremonies at CCAP's Fall Conference in Hershey.

The academy is a certificate training program specifically designed for county commissioners, council members, county executives, administrators and assistant administrators, chief clerks and assistant chief clerks, solicitors and assistant solicitors, and their equivalents in home rule counties. Participants complete required courses in leadership, management, and decision-making; county legal issues; today's trends in county government; county functions and responsibilities; county financial management; risk management; personnel and labor relations; and personal development. They also attain elective credits by attending courses covering a wide range of relevant topics.

CCAP and the academy are committed to training informed and responsible public officials to give Pennsylvania's counties the leadership needed to deal with the challenges of today's county government. Since its inception in 1996, the voluntary program has graduated more than 150 county officials,

The 2018 graduates include Kevin S. Barnhardt, Berks County commissioner, and Christine Sadler, Berks County solicitor.

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Proclamation Raises CO Awareness December 5, 2018

As part of an ongoing effort to warn the public about the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, Donna and Matt Imbierowicz of Coatesville, founders of the Carly Imbierowicz Foundation, recently traveled to Harrisburg to meet with state Sen. Andy Dinniman, who sponsored a Senate resolution officially designating November 2018 as Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.

The foundation is named for the late Carly Marie Imbierowicz, who, along with her friend Daulton "Daulty" Pointek, passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning on the way home from a movie in November 2014 when a broken exhaust pipe allowed deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter the car through the passenger air vents. Both Carly and Daulton were students at Octorara Area High School.

Since then, Carly's mother, Donna, has been an advocate for raising awareness of the dangers and prevalence of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Also in attendance at the meeting with Dinniman was Kayla Stoltzfus, who was Carly's friend and a member of Daulton's class at Octorara. Kayla is currently a student at West Chester University. "(Kayla) did her senior project on CO awareness, and now she has taken the CO awareness advocacy to West Chester University," Donna explained.

She noted that Kayla also helps out at the Octorara Angels Rainbow 5K Run/Walk and Carbon Monoxide Awareness Event that is sponsored annually by the foundation at Octorara Area High School. Next year's event will be held on Saturday, June 1, 2019.

Donna noted that the proclamation was on display at a CO awareness table manned by Octorara graduate Hannah Unitis at Our Lady of Consolation Parish's annual Christmas craft fair and bazaar on Nov. 17 and at a CO awareness table at Widener University in November, that was manned by Octorara graduate Sarah Black and the Alpha Omega Epsilon sorority.

Dinniman also took the time to warn residents about the dangers of CO, especially in wintertime. "As colder temperatures set in, more residents are using heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, generators and other appliances that produce carbon monoxide," he stated. "There's also the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning in malfunctioning vehicles or those with exhaust pipes that are blocked by leaves, mud or snow. It's important to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and take steps to prevent it because it can very difficult to detect."

Carbon monoxide is called the "silent killer" because it is colorless, odorless and tasteless and it cannot be detected by humans without the help of an alarm or detector.

Dinniman said he remains committed to educating motorists, especially teenagers and student drivers, about the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. Through these efforts, PennDOT has revised the Pennsylvania Driver's Manual to include important information about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

For more information about CO awareness and the foundation, readers may visit www.cmiawareness.org.

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