On Friday night, January 6, 2017 at 6:15 PM, one of our carbon monoxide alarms suddenly went live. It wouldn’t stop, even when I took it outside. When the second one alarmed, I called 911 and the police and fire department arrived, with us outside as directed, even though it was only 7 degrees. They found carbon monoxide in our master bedroom and master bathroom on what is the third level of our house, the ground level being the foyer, my husband’s shop in what is actually a garage, though it’s never been used for one. We also have two other rooms and a bath on the ground level. However, they could not locate any source of the deadly gas. So, we had to pack ourselves and the cat up and move to a motel a few blocks away and at which my daughter-in-law had obtained a large suite for us to use for the night.
The following day, as directed by the fire department, I called the heating/plumbing company to check the three natural gas appliances in our home – furnace/water heater/drier and found zero CO. The fire chief had volunteered to come back and check with him and he also found zero CO. However, we were told to have carbon monoxide detectors (we already had three) in all bedrooms and on each floor of our house, which we now have for a total of six.
On Monday, another technician from the heating company appeared at our door to do a courtesy check, to make certain all is well. And yesterday, the heating company came and changed our vinyl exhaust pipe to the gas drier to sheet metal. Apparently, that is a new federal housing code rule. The old vinyl style is considered to be a fire hazard, plus there’s always a chance a hole might appear in such a vent pipe.
I can now tell you how scary it is to lie down in your bed at night with the knowledge you just may never wake up again due to carbon monoxide. The fire department moved one of the detectors inside our bedroom and I keep another just outside of it. At this point, that is what I depend on to warn us, should we be in danger. Two years ago, we purchased our detectors after a couple was found dead from carbon monoxide in a motel room in a distant town.
This is something each and every one of you should do for your safety because it is odorless and deadly. With nothing showing CO in our case, the only possible explanation is that earlier, my husband had our Jeep running just outside the open garage door in the basement while he used an acetylene torch to thaw the hydraulic lift on the snow plow. He also had our pickup truck running with the exhaust pointing in the exact opposite direction from the Jeep, but also right outside and parallel to the open garage door. Speculation is that the furnace, just inside the door, sucked the exhaust into the house and spread it through the ducts and upstairs. Our house is an open chalet style, but the bedroom and bathrooms do have walls and doors, though the doors were open.
A weather inversion can also cause carbon monoxide when it doesn’t allow your appliances outside vents to work properly. It was unusually cold the night of our own experience.
Also, in spite of the hatred for law enforcement and firemen today, always support and be grateful for your police and fire departments because they may be the ones who save your life sometime.
I’m writing this as a public service announcement to make sure you have adequate carbon monoxide detectors wherever you are. They also might save your life some day or night. Having them saved ours.
Jackie is a Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association