CO detector saves livesA decision by Lee Danielson nearly five years ago may have saved his life early Wednesday morning. The Superior man and his family woke just after midnight when the alarm on their carbon monoxide detector went off.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
A decision by Lee Danielson nearly five years ago may have saved his life early Wednesday morning. The Superior man and his family woke just after midnight when the alarm on their carbon monoxide detector went off.
“Carbon monoxide detectors will give a false reading once in a while,” Danielson said. “This is the first time it went off and stayed on.”
He checked the furnace room and found the combined exhaust for his furnace and hot water heater had collapsed. It was pouring toxic carbon monoxide gas into the home. Danielson brought his wife, Jennifer and their two sons to another part of the house and opened the patio door to let in fresh air. He shut off the water heater, turned down the thermostats and called the Superior Fire Department for help.
“The carbon monoxide did peak at 80 parts per million,” Danielson said. “The fire department said anything over 35 is very unsafe.”
Battalion Chief Scott Gordon with the Superior Fire Department said if the detector hadn’t picked it up, the colorless, odorless gas could have killed the family in the night. Without the detector, the exhaust would have continued to empty into the house, saturating the air with toxic gas.
“The levels would have just gone up and we might not have woken up,” Danielson said.
Jennifer Danielson took the couple’s children — 4-year-old Parker and 2-year-old Chase — to stay at a relative’s house while her husband stayed home. Firefighters determined that the carbon monoxide levels had fallen to safe levels, although without the furnace going the temperature in the home dipped to 58 degrees. Young Plumbing was contacted to repair the exhaust.
The Superior Fire Department responds to between 20 and 30 carbon monoxide alarm calls per year.
“Most of them are benign,” Gordon said, but at least three have involved a complete malfunction of an exhaust system or appliance.
“Carbon monoxide detectors can save lives just as much as smoke detectors,” Gordon said. And they protect against an enemy that can’t be seen, smelled or tasted.
“It’s something you take for granted, like a smoke detector,” Danielson said. “It’s something you don’t know if it even works; it won’t go off until there’s a problem.”
The Superior native has had the detector for years. When the family moved into their South Superior home two years ago, they brought it with them. Public safety announcements about the dangers of carbon monoxide, known as the silent killer, led Danielson to get it. He didn’t even know the detectors had become mandatory in all homes in Wisconsin this February.
Wednesday afternoon, the couple’s sons played with Transformers in the living room as their parents talked with members of the media. They were willing to share their story to highlight the importance of carbon monoxide detectors. The incident has made them stop taking theirs for granted.
“Obviously I’m going to make sure it works all the time, and buy another for the other section of the house,” Danielson said.
According to state law, carbon monoxide detectors must be installed in all one- and two-family dwellings with fuel-burning appliances, fireplaces or attached garages. Detectors are required on every floor of the home, including the basement, and near every sleeping area. But it’s a law that’s hard to enforce.
“We don’t have the ability to go in and make people do it,” Gordon said. “That’s why we’re happy people are doing it.”
He said homeowners should have their appliances checked every year, as well.
If a carbon monoxide detector does go off, residents should call 911 and get out of the house, according to Gordon.
The battery-powered devices come in both ceiling/wall mount and plug-in modes; some are even combined with smoke detectors. Each of these styles meets the requirements of the state law, provided it is approved by Underwriter’s Laboratories and has a UL number listed on the package.