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Carbon monoxide detectors save lives
August 23, 2013 - Art Smith
Sometimes when you cover stories they affect your own lives.
More than 20 years ago I covered the tragic death of two college students who died in a Washington Street apartment from carbon monoxide poisoning, The two died in their sleep. It was later determined a squirrel had built a nest in the apartment's furnace vent. The blockage caused the furnace not to work correctly, which elevated CO levels in the apartment, killing the two.
CO detectors were not that common at the time. The apartment didn't have one, neither did my house. I purchased one shortly after that.
CO detectors have a life span to them. The early ones only lasted two years. The new ones last around seven years. They are as important to have in your home as smoke detectors. Unlike smoke, you cannot detect CO without a detector. CO a clear gas with no odor that will displace the oxygen in your home and kill you.
We have four in our house, one on each level, two near the bedrooms. Thursday one of those started sounding the alarm. I reset it, thinking it was malfunctioning. A few minutes later one in the basement went off. I called 911 and got out of the house.
A short time later two firefighters arrived with a digital detector. Levels were high in the basement but were detectable all over the house.
My wife had baked a cake, and the firefighters determined the burner in the oven was not working correctly. Burning yellow instead of blue, it was producing large amounts CO gas. The gas is heavier than air, so it settled in the basement. The air conditioner then circulated the gas all over the house. Both detectors that went off were near air vents.
We ventilated the house, called to have the stove repaired and decided it was a good excuse to go out to eat. By the time we got home, the alarm in the basement had stopped.
Very soon houses will be shut up tight and furnaces will be turned out. It's a great time to review if you have your home properly protected.
If you do not have at least one detector in your home, buy one. If you have an old one, replace it. In our case the firefighters pointed out one of ours was 10 years old, so we bought another one, plus ordered one for our daughter's college apartment.
We have lived in our house for 20 years without a CO problem. Because of detectors Thursday it was an excuse to go to Tampico's for dinner instead of a possible tragedy.
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