to set the clocks back and replace all of our batteries in our smoke detectors (if they are not hardwired into your electrical system/alarm systems) AND you Carbon Monoxide/Gas Detectors. If you do not have one, I IMPLORE you to get one now. They save lives. I am now living proof (and thank God not a statistic) that ours saved our lives. Put this on the top of your to do list. Do it NOW. And tell everyone you know, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers… EVERYONE.
We were running late to school on Friday morning. Nothing unusual there. Christopher mentioned that the number on the CO detector box was unusually high. (Admittedly I have never paid much (any) attention to the small white box plugged into the wall in the front entryway. I shushed him and told him to finish getting ready. There was a lot of yelling going on that morning. The kids couldn’t get their acts together. Couldn’t get dressed. Couldn’t pick up their toys, clothes, messes. Admittedly, I am pretty anal about leaving the house tidy in the morning. But I knew this was not going to happen. I thought I would drop the kids off at school and come back and tidy up. Then I remembered that I had a meeting at the Audubon Center for the wine tasting I am organizing. With an hour to kill I decided to head to Starbucks with my friends instead of going home. There would not have been much time for tidying anyhow.
When all was said and done we left the Audubon at about 11:30. Alexander passed out in the car shortly there after. I was looking forward to a nice nap. It had been a long time since he had had one. When we got home I went in to unlock the house so I could transfer my sleeping babe. I hear the shrill of the smoke detector but I saw and smelled no smoke. That is because it was not the smoke detector but the CO (Carbon Monoxide)/Gas Detector. And then I remembered how Christopher remarked how high the numbers had been. The red numbers glared angrily at me. 44. (Normal is 0) The light indicating I needed TO GET THE HELL OUT OF THE HOUSE ASAP was on as well. It had already been a long week. I was already stressed and overworked and overtired. All I could think of at that very moment was that a) this was indeed a crisis and b) I was not going to get a break that day. I was more annoyed by that, truth be told.
I texted Don and asked him what to do as I stood in the kitchen smelling the foul, rotten-egg odor that I had not smelled that morning. Seeing my kitchen counters covered, sink filled sky-high with dishes and the dishwasher that begged emptying, I actually contemplated tidying up. Alexander was safely in the car at the bottom of the driveway. Just then Don texted back (cell phones are not allowed on in the ORs but he can text me on his Blackberry) and told me to call the fire department and get out!
I grabbed a house phone with me since we have no cell reception where we live. Of course I grabbed one that had been off the charger. Typical. I drove down to the main road where there is reception and called the fire department non-emergency number. They told me they were sending someone over but to hang up and call 911.
And that’s when fear and exhaustion consumed me. I drove home. Alexander was still sound asleep. I pulled in and waited beyond one of the stone pillars at the bottom of the driveway. I saw the fire engine come racing down followed by a police car. I followed them up the driveway and let them in, explaining the situation as I unlocked the front door.
The men were all suited up in their oxygen tanks and masks. Clearly they were not taking this lightly. As soon as we opened up the front door their super-sensitive CO/Gas detectors started sounding off frantically.
How could I have ignored Christopher? Why didn’t I take a closer look at the monitro that morning? Was my dream house going to blow up sending everything we owned in the air… photos, memorabilia, etc… favorite jeans, antique jewelry… was I going to be a statistic? Would my house be in the news… blown to smithereens? Remember we just moved here in May. We are still not fully decorated (by any stretch of the imagination.) All these thoughts started racing through my head. I knew in my heart something was very wrong and very dangerous. My older two were in school and Alexander was still sound asleep in his car seat oblivious to everything.
After a good half hour I decided to wake Alexander. My little boy who is all about fire engines and firemen shouldn’t sleep through all this excitement. So I woke him. He was very groggy until I mentioned the big red fire truck in the driveway. He perked up immediately. He was thoroughly impressed. I told him to stay seated on the hill, away from the truck and away from the men who needed to do their work. I explained, as best as I could to a 3 year old, what was going on. He was a doll. He was a gem. I was terrified and he was in his glory. And despite it all I was so happy for him.
Eventually one of the fire men came out and explained that there was leak coming from somewhere. They could not pinpoint the exact location, though they knew it to be in the basement. The reason the levels were so high throughout the house was because the CO was seeping through all the vents.
They opened up all the windows, doors, sliders, bulk head doors and brought these massive fans in to blow out the bad air and bring in fresh air. They did this until their readings dropped back down to 0. We would be allowed back in when all was safe and clear.
The fireman who came out to talk to us what completely taken by Alexander and his love for all firemen related things. He commented that the firemen noticed all his fire gear and apparel throughout the house and they loved his bedroom! Alexander delighted in that and was completely star-struck when the fireman talked to him. He had this wide, super-goofy grin on his face. It was precious!
Eventually we were told we could get back in safely. The furnaces had been shut off but not the hot water heater. I was instructed to keep my eye on the CO detector and if the numbers crept back up we would know it was the water heater. If the numbers did not creep back up, one of the furnaces would be to blame.
Our furnaces were inspected later that afternoon and indeed that was where the problem lay. There was a crack in the heat exchanger which was emitting gas and carbon monoxide. Had we not had our carbon monoxide detector we may have not gotten out of bed the following morning. Scary stuff. Luckily we have two furnaces and the broken one has been dismantled (and will be fixed for $4k!!) on Monday. The one that is operational is doing a great job keeping everything (except for the playroom over the garage) nice and toasty.
Our house is only 20 years old but the heating and air system are original to the time of construction. I hope the other furnace does not go as well. If it does we’ll be in the poorhouse! And, I really do not want to have to go through all that drama again any time soon.
Carbon Monoxide is a natural occurring by-product of all natural fossil burning fuel — gas and oil. So unless you have no gas or oil in your house I implore you to get a carbon monoxide detector in your house.
(getting oxygen tanks and masks on)
(suiting up for the gas chamber)
(getting super duper sized fan off the truck to flush toxic air out of