They were sleeping peacefully – A Carbon Monoxide story

Ray of Sun
A number of years ago, I was woken by a strange beeping noise, being only half awake, I wandered throughout the house searching for the sound, when it finally dawned on me – it was our Carbon Monoxide Detector. I immediately dialed our gas company (first mistake) and they told me to open all the windows to air the house out and then call the Fire Department. I dialed 911, and reported that our Carbon Monoxide Detector was beeping. Immediately I was asked if there was anyone else in the house? It was the middle of the night, my husband was at work, I was not fully awake thus not thinking properly, because I responded with yes, my children and told him “they were in their beds sleeping peacefully”. Just as I finished this sentence, I realized this is bad, since carbon monoxide makes you sleep. While still on the line, the Fireman tells me to go wake them, I run to their bedrooms. Thankfully, I was able to wake them up. Note: We have 2 Carbon Monoxide detectors and Smoke Detectors in every room in the house, since nothing seems to wake my kids when asleep. I was told to take them outside and the Fire Department was already on its way.

I sat my children outside and tried to explain to them what was happening and in a couple of minutes we would hear sirens. When the Fire Department arrived, two checked on my kids while three others, in full respiratory gear entered the house with their Carbon Monoxide detectors, but since I had opened the windows (second mistake), everything checked out fine, meaning they were not able to find the cause/reason for the detector sounding off. It would be a few weeks later, when the Carbon Monoxide detector would go into full alarm again, this time it was during the day and my husband was home. He determined a faulty dryer was the problem.

What I should have done that night the Carbon Monoxide Detector sounded: first wake your kids and take them outside, second phone your local Fire Department. Do not open windows because they will not be able to determine whether or not there is Carbon Monoxide in the air. Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer, you can’t smell it, you can’t see it, you can’t taste it. It makes you sleep until finally it takes your life.

In Canada, on November 3rd, 2013, Daylight Savings Time ends and we turn our clocks back an hour. This is also the date when we should be changing the batteries in both the Carbon Monoxide Detectors and our Smoke Alarms. If you have a Smoke Alarm that is hard-wired into your house you still need a battery operated one, because if the electricity is off, the hard-wired Smoke Alarm will NOT work.

Do you regularly change the batteries in your alarms?

20 Replies to “They were sleeping peacefully – A Carbon Monoxide story”

  1. Great reminder. In the UK , all new hard wired smoke alarms also have batteries. This is so that when the batteries fail, the alarm will beep until they’re changed, ensuring there’s always fresh batteries in the event of a power outage. This is probably the case in Canada too.
    As to the advice to vent the house, this may not help them detect CO initially but its great first aid, as there may be a gas leak too, and until you breathe fresh air, there’s a chance of collapse.
    A gas engineer can detect a CO leak quite easily, after the fact, by testing your boiler etc(it is usually the boiler).
    I’m glad you’re all safe and well, CO IS a silent killer, and your actions saed your kids lives.

    1. Our hard wired smoke alarm doesn’t have batteries and I’m not actually sure as to whether or not it is just the type I have, thus we have numerous battery operated ones in the house. The Fire Department told me it is most important to get everyone out of the house, then call 911, plus they did add not to open the windows. I made a number of mistakes that night, I should have gotten my kids out of the house first, and then called 911. I’ve learned but I could easily behave the same way again for the simple reason, it’s the middle of the night, you’re half asleep, and you don’t have your wits about you.

      1. Must have been very frightening! Our first instinct is always to save our children, and whatever anyone says about it afterward, it’s only them that matter, in the end.

        1. The fire department told me that was the wrong thing to do, because then their detectors are unable to find the source of the problem since the carbon monoxide has dissipated. Thus the first thing is to get everyone out of the house, then call the fire department.

  2. Earlier this year mine was beeping … so after a few checks around the house, I changed the batteries … later, beeping again …. it was time to replace it because they have a limited lifespan.

  3. Thanks for the tips. It’s always good to have a reminder because in an emergency, it’s difficult to remember your own name let alone what to do. Is it really time to change the clocks back and change all our batteries? Wow, time flies.

    Besos, Sarah
    Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo

  4. Great reminder – thank you – I’m glad you were safe.
    Our dryer and boiler are outside, so we don’t have anything in the house that emits Carbon Monoxide, but if we did, renting or not, I’d buy myself a battery powered detector and not rely on my landlord to think to save me. My life is ultimately my own responsibility.

  5. We just had our furnace shut down as it was expelling four times the legal limit of carbon monoxide. Still waiting for the day when carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory in all rental properties. Until then my tight-fisted landlords won’t bother.

    1. Oh my goodness, thankfully your furnace shut down! Carbon monoxide detectors should be mandatory like Smoke Alarms, though some rental properties seem to only have the hard-wired smoke alarms and they do NOT work in a power failure, which you don’t think about. When we rented, I always purchased extra battery operated detectors and I found them to be great presents for those just moving into a new apartment/house/condo.

      I’m glad your family is safe.

I'd love to hear what you have to say