News

Carbon monoxide alarm saves local family

Sunday, February 05, 2012   by: Kate Adams
The Point kids Rachel (9), Marshall (11) and Coulton (13) check out one of the new CO detectors added to their home after a dangerous incident at their home.

North Bay resident Colleen Point and her family are counting their lucky stars after a dangerous incident at their home.

Point, a teacher at Chippewa Intermediate/Secondary School, says on the night of January 23rd she found herself feeling nauseous and thought she was coming down with something and didn’t give it any further thought.

Until an unknown alarm sounded off and she sent her husband to find out what the alarm was and turn it off in order not to wake their kids.

At that time her husband Gary was complaining about a tingling sensation in his arms and their daughter awoke feeling nauseated as well.

The alarm was their CO detector going off and they were not coming down with an illness they were feeling the full effects of carbon monoxide poison.

“An alarm that I didn’t recognise went off and so I kind of tapped Gary and said go turn that off … go turn that off it’s going to wake up the kids.”

“Rachel my daughter had woken up from the alarm and she came in and said how nauseated she was. Still even then I don’t think I really was putting the pieces together, so I said come and snuggle in bed. I’m sure everything will be fine and daddy will get that turned off and we’ll get you back to bed.”

“Gary came back upstairs he said you know I think we need to get dressed -- our carbon monoxide detector has a digital reader on it and it was going up rapidly,” she explains.

At that instant the family grasped what was happening got dressed, left the house and called the fire department.

Upon entry to the home the CO detectors firefighters were carrying sounded off throughout the entire house.

Point says it was then she realized the significance of the situation and that had there not been a working CO detector in the home the events could have easily turned into a tragedy.

“You kind of understand what’s happening kind of slowly, you feel like you are under water and then you start to realise just how serious it could have been had we not had a working carbon monoxide detector.”

“Had we not taken it seriously … things would have been very different for my family.”

In 2009, the City of North Bay passed a By-Law requiring the installation and maintenance of carbon monoxide alarms in all residential occupancies containing a fuel fired appliance and/or having an attached garage.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless and toxic gas and is often referred to as the ‘silent killer.’

When inhaled, it inhibits the blood’s capacity to transport oxygen throughout the body. It can poison the body quickly in high concentrations, or slowly over long periods of time.

Exposure to CO can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, burning eyes, confusion, drowsiness or loss of consciousness and in severe cases, CO poisoning can cause brain damage and death.

Point says she wasn’t scared at the time but a couple of days after she realized the implications of what could have been and is creating awareness about the real dangers of CO poisoning and telling everybody to get a working CO detector on every floor of their homes and at least one of the detectors should be digital.

“We only had one, we now have three … and you should have one on every single floor and you need to make sure your batteries are changed and you need to replace them (the detectors) every three years.”

“And I am so grateful that my husband has always taken care of that it’s something honestly I’ve never thought about or worried about … you know those things happen to other people it doesn’t happen to me,” she says.

“But it did, it happened to my kids and it’s very serious. We were already suffering effects before the alarm even went off.”

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal, gasoline or wood have insufficient air to burn completely.

Point says when the fire department arrived their furnace was producing 3000 parts per million and death can occur within 2 hours with measurements between 500 -600 parts per million.

Point says she is grateful that her husband made the choices he did and encourages everyone should their alarm go off to error on the side of caution.

“Instead of ignoring it, just taking the batteries out because it is late at night and I’m sure it’s nothing … you know we rationalize away some of those things as well so you need to take it seriously.”

“Even if your carbon monoxide has gone off and there is nothing in the home once the fire department comes you are just so much better off to have had it checked out.”



Prevention is the Key to Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

DO have your fuel-burning appliances -- including oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves -- inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season. Make certain that the flues and chimneys are connected, in good condition, and not blocked.


DO choose appliances that vent their fumes to the outside whenever possible, have them properly installed, and maintain them according to manufacturers’ instructions.


DO read and follow all of the instructions that accompany any fuel-burning device. If you cannot avoid using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater, carefully follow the cautions that come with the device. Use the proper fuel and keep doors to the rest of the house open. Crack a window to ensure enough air for ventilation and proper fuel-burning.


DO clean regularly gas range stove tops, the oven cavity and burners. If the burners are dirty and clogged, the fuel air mixture becomes improperly adjusted causing inefficient combustion. Older appliances may have rust or damage to the burner system which may cause CO. Always maintain your appliance following manufacturers instructions

DO keep your gas meter and gas appliance exhaust vents free of snow and ice. A blocked vent could result in carbon monoxide problems.

DON’TS…

DON’T idle the car in a garage -- even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home.


DON’T use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.


DON’T ever use a charcoal grill indoors -- even in a fireplace.


DON'T sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.


DON’T use any gasoline-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators) in enclosed spaces.


DON’T ignore symptoms, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness and die if you do nothing.

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