Posted by: Morgan | January 6, 2010

They say I should have died on Saturday

For those of you in the dark, let me tell you a little about how my Saturday evening went. After dinner had been fairly uneventful, with a bit of cleaning and some Facebook browsing. With Caleb gone to work another couple hours and a fussy baby, I decided to try to nap while putting Emma to sleep early. Her sleep schedule had been all out of wack, so I thought I was killing two birds with one stone, getting her to sleep earlier and sneaking in some extra sleep time for me.

I hadn’t been asleep twenty minutes when I was rudely awoken by a short, shrill alarm. I immediately opened my eyes, thinking it was the fire alarm, and wondering if our house had caught fire and how long I had been asleep. I lunged out of bed, trying to get to the noise before it woke Emma, when I realized it was our carbon monoxide monitor that was sitting on a shelf. I grabbed it and stumbled out of the room, trying to take a battery out of it and shut off the screeching alarm. In the process of finding the batteries, I noticed a series of directions on the back of the alarm. The first part was Unit Failure, which would cause the unit to sound an alarm every five minutes. The second was the actual alarm, which would sound every five seconds. I took the unit back into the bedroom and hit reset. Immediately the alarm started sounding. I expected a silence for the five minutes, but the unit kept sounding off, about every five seconds.

According to the directions, if the alarm sounded, 911 was to be called immediately. Deciding to rather be safe than sorry, I phoned 911. The dispatcher took my information and said a team would be out soon. I let my mom know, who told the kids the fire department was coming and to not worry. It’s funny to look back on what one does in a moment like this, when ignorance still reigns and the imminent danger is unknown. I started cleaning my room, so that when the firemen came to look at the alarm they wouldn’t see a mess.

A few minutes later they arrived and I greeted them at the door. The chief (as I learned who he was later) asked me to take him to the alarm and tell him what had happened. I showed him the detector and explained when it had sounded. He walked out to where another fireman had entered the house, with a type of meter. As soon as he stepped into the door the meter started wailing. The chief turned to us and said “Get out of the house. Get your coats and get out.”

He didn’t sound frantic, so I carried Emma (who had woken up while we were waiting for them to arrive) back to our room to get the diaper bag and my coat. When I walked back to the door he was coming in after us again. “I don’t think you understand. GET OUT NOW! We can’t even be in here without gas masks. GO!”. We hurried. It was cold and we ended up out on the curb of the street. The chief followed us to ask us questions about if we had been feeling sick (which Carley had) and how long anyone had been in the house that day. Then he donned his gas mask and joined the other firemen inside the house. We were starting to get jittery.

Our neighbor came over to see what was going on. I must take more than one moment to applaud the amazing support of Jack and Janice Corley. Not only were they available for us that night, but have checked on us several times since Saturday. Couldn’t ask for better neighbors.

After a few minutes the fireman outside offered the warmth of the firetruck to the kids and myself, so we clambered up into the back seat. I called Caleb at work to warn him not to worry, but there was a firetruck outside the house. By this time the kid’s were super hyper and I had to leave Emma with them to get out of the small space filled with so much energy. No one knew whether to be excited or scared. I wandered over to the outside fireman, seeing that they had set up a very large fan in the doorway of the house. He came over to talk to me.

“Yeah, so 35 parts per million is dangerous. Your house was over 140. I’ve only ever seen it higher than that once. If you hadn’t had that alarm, none of you would have woken up tomorrow. You are extremely lucky.”

At that moment, my stomach lurched and I had to catch myself. The chief came over and I had to be the adult again, while he told me what they had done. The gas was turned off at the street. I nodded. The air was fine now, but don’t turn anything on. I nod. Can’t tell for sure, but think it’s the heater. Nod. Probably not the hot water, but don’t use it until someone can look at it. Blink and nod. You are very lucky, very easily couldn’t have made it. Stand still. Make sure you watch the kids tonight, for signs of flu like symptoms. Nodding. If someone turns red like they’re blushing, but they’re just sitting there, get them to the hospital right away. Gulp and nod.

Caleb showed up while the chief was finishing paperwork. The house was ok’d for us to go back into and the big fan was being put away. The kids were over at the Corley’s watching Animal Planet and Emma was getting tired. We went to bed that night slightly bleary eyed, but mostly very thankful.

Sunday morning came and went, with church and Taco Bell for lunch. I was telling everyone I talked to “Buy a CO detector.” and the crazy story of how we almost died the night before. We got home and Jack Corley brought over another neighbor who has been working on heating units for 30 years. He offered to examine the furnace and water heater for us, and let me watch as he did so. I have learned the following: most furnaces are set up to have some sort of gas, heated, flow through metal tubing in the middle of the furnace. These tubes are in a confined space, where the air around the tubes is heated by flowing past them, and is then pushed up and out into the vents. If the tubing is cracked at all, it will pull the gas (with carbon monoxide along with it) straight into the air that is going to the vents. The thought that having a furnace in a ventilated area (such as outside or an attic) doesn’t avoid this situation, as the leak occurs within the furnace itself.

There were 5-6 gashes in the furnace tubes. By law, he condemned the furnace.

But our water heater was ok, so we were able to turn that back on (thank you, Lord, for assisting humanity in the invention of hot water). Once again we were told how lucky we are. We nod and say we know. He stopped and looked at us. “No. You don’t know. You should have died. You are extremely lucky. I can’t believe it. You don’t know.”

The moral of this story is: Go buy yourself a CO detector. They range from $20-50, which may seem like a chunk, up until the moment the fire chief looks at you and says you should be dead. At that moment, it’s not that much money. Carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless. There is no way to tell it is in the air you’re breathing, at dangerous levels, without a detector. Put them beside any gas appliances, and in every bedroom. I’ve heard tell, since Saturday, that you don’t need one if you only have electric to the house, no gas. That may be true but, for myself, I will always have a CO detector in any home I live in. I’m not too keen on tempting death again.



  1. where are you? I want more posts from you! Some unimportant ramblings perhaps… or pictures from your life! or… something! come back to blogging world!

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