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PSA: Carbon Monoxide Could Have Killed Our Whole Family

May 16, 2016  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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Over the weekend, we had a pretty scary thing happen in our home. I wasn’t planning on sharing it, but when we told our friends, families and neighbors, a few of them encouraged me to share it with all of you to raise awareness of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide (CO).

PSA: Carbon Monoxide Could Have Killed Our Whole Family | Chris Loves Julia

Sunday morning, our carbon monoxide alarm started sounding near our furnace room. We had never heard it before, so Chris ran downstairs to check what it was. When he realized it was the CO detector, he yelled for everyone to get out of the house “right now!” I had just put Faye down for a nap 15 minutes prior, but I ran into her room and wrapped her up in my arms and got Charly on her leash, too. Greta was already outside crying, worried about her toy puppy on her bed. We ran straight for my parents’ home next door while Chris stayed in the driveway and called 911. I tried to explain to Greta that “her stuffy” will be just fine and we’ll see him again in a little bit. I think she was thinking our house was on fire, but I tried to explain the details of what was happening without scaring her too much: There’s poisonous gas in our house that can make us really, really sick. We need to get fresh air and the fire department is going to make sure our house is safe with no more poison before we go back in. 

An ambulance and fire department arrived in a matter of minutes and when they arrived, sure enough there was deadly levels of gas coming from our utility room that had already seeped into the rest of our house. They told Chris and I that if we didn’t have a CO detector in the house, our whole family would have been dead by evening.

Fortunately, we’re fine. I had a bad headache yesterday that suddenly made a lot of sense and Faye has suffered from flu-like symptoms (a common side effect of CO poisoning) but she is going to be okay. They also did a thorough check on Chris since he went right into it and we are all checked out. However, it shook me up  all day. We are 100% certain, that detector saved us all.

So where did the gas come from? The fire department turned off both our furnace and water heater–both operated by gas–to be sure. But you can also be exposed to Carbon Monoxide by:

• Furnaces or boilers
• Gas stoves and ovens
• Fireplaces, both gas and wood burning
• Water heaters
• Clothes dryers
• Wood stoves
• Power generators
• Motor vehicles
• Power tools and lawn equipment
• Tobacco smoke

The scariest part is CO has no odor, color or taste so it can’t be detected by our senses. If that alarm didn’t go off, or if we didn’t have an alarm, it would have killed us. I don’t say that for attention or sympathy or a pat on the back because we did have a detector. I share this because we’re a really normal family living in a suburb in Idaho and we woke up on Sunday morning and did normal things like eat breakfast and play with PlayDoh and we had zero idea that our lives were at such risk.

I also share this because if you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, get one today. Please! They aren’t expensive; we have this $19 one (upstairs and downstairs). They are easy to install (a lot of them can just sit in a room or you can easily mount it to the wall) and they are life saving. Lives saving.

 

PS. If you haven’t listened to this week’s podcast, it went live this morning! Also, it’s the last day to enter to win $1000 to Interior Define on this post from last week.

What do you think?

  1. Sarah pilgrim says:

    We not only put them in our home, but we bought an extra one to take with us when we travel to hotels, Airbnb, friends and families homes etc.
    just in case because not everyone has them. ????

  2. I am so glad you shared your story and that your family is ok. Just yesterday I shared our carbon monoxide poisoning story with my co-workers. We had three family members taken to the hospital via ambulance due to our leak. We are all ok too, but it was very scary.

    I raised money to purchase detectors for members of our community that didn’t have them.

    A couple of things I would love to add to your story:
    1. Carbon Monoxide Detectors EXPIRE!!! Be sure to replace them per the manufactures suggestions
    2. Some women CAN smell carbon monoxide gas. (but don’t rely on this!)

  3. Glad you all are okay! Thanks for the nudge to buy a detector. I’ve been meaning to do this for myself and our family members, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

  4. Phoebe says:

    I keep meaning to comment on this post and say that this same thing happened to me and my husband about a week ago! We woke up at 2:30am to an unusual beeping, and literally, thanks to your post, the first thought that popped into my mind was, “It’s carbon monoxide — we gotta get out of the house!” My husband investigated the alarm and sure enough, it was the carbon monoxide alarm. We got out of the house as fast as we could and called 911. Thankfully it was at a low level and wouldn’t have killed us within a couple hours, but still, scary. So, thanks for posting this — it definitely made me take this more seriously. As we stood in our driveway I kept saying to my husband, “Babe, this JUST HAPPENED to this couple whose blog I read — it’s no joke!’ :) So glad you guys are safe, and us too.

  5. Jenna says:

    We just finished building a house in December, and I’ve thought in passing that we needed to get some CO monitors, but then I promptly forget about it because hey, our house is new and blah blah. After reading this, I went straight to Amazon and ordered 2 of the ones you guys have! SO glad you’re okay! Such a scary thing.

  6. Arielle says:

    We are moving to a new house in Pittsburgh and it wasn’t even on my list of things to double check. Thank you for this reminder. I’m glad to hear you and your family are safe.

  7. Virginia Saint says:

    Just ordered one for each floor of my home on Amazon – it plugs right into an outlet so I won’t have to think about batteries. Thanks so much for sharing this story!

  8. Stacy says:

    I’m so happy you are all safe. You motivated me to check the batteries in my carbon monoxide detector. It’s a small thing that makes a BIG difference. Mine once woke me up at 1am and saved my life from a wall furnace. Sending you all big hugs – it’s very scary!

  9. Bethany says:

    We have gas in our house. We live in Blackfoot, normal family. One night we were playing board games on the floor with our three kids and the kids seemed tired and my husband and I had headaches.. turns out our 1.5 year old had actually turned the stove nob just enough to leak out gas from our oven/cooktop. We had to air out the house and leave the windows open in December. We think our detector was close to going off but it’s just so scary!

  10. Ling Wang says:

    Thank you for sharing this PSA: I have one in my home already but am currently visiting a good friend & your post led me to discover that they do not have one, so I just ordered one for them!

  11. Dar says:

    Thank you for the post! Always been one of those things that I should do but never have. Clicked your link and got it done.

  12. Michelle H. says:

    My husband and I just moved into our first home and the family prior to us, thankfully, left their CO detectors. They have one in almost every room- upstairs and downstairs. Is that necessary or is just one on every floor able to do the job to keep us safe?

    • Julia says:

      The recommend at least one on every level. One in every room is a bit excessive, are you sure they aren’t smoke detectors? Because it is likely carbon monoxide wouldn’t be coming from a bedroom, placed near a source where it could be (furnace room, fireplace, etc) and then maybe one near a cluster of bedroom doors so you could hear it if sleeping is ideal.

    • jaclyn says:

      I live in Rhode Island and its state code to have the combination smoke/heat and CO detectors on all floors and in each room that could be used as a bedroom. Ours make a different alert noise for CO or for fire/smoke/heat.

      Maybe it’s a New England thing but I’m always surprised when people either don’t have CO detectors or aren’t aware of the dangers. Old houses + oil heat is basically recipe for CO issues so its sort of general knowledge along with fire safety in these parts.

      Another thing to add though is you should ALWAYS have a CO detector near your utilities as a first line of defense/warning. If you only have the detectors in the bedrooms, by the time it makes its way all the way into there and the alarm goes off, it can be too late.

  13. Tiffany says:

    Definitely scary and thanks for the PSA.

  14. Stephanie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. We immediately went and got ours from our old house. I was wondering if you would share what your levels were at and what kind of detectors you use. We have the standard $40 ones, but the response times listed on those feels too slow. I’m wondering if we should invest the $110-$180 in a low level detector.

  15. First and foremost, so glad to hear you and your family are well!!! Sharing your story is brave & will save people who would not even know they had a risk in their home or workplace, so thanks for the love! And speaking of love, the Caitlin chair in Narwhal, http://www.interiordefine.com/shop/caitlin-chair#LK-14342-40/Leg008-3. Heather, Evergreen,..stunning options! All contests aside, thanks for introducing their products. They look like the “real McCoy” furniture to live your life in..Um, where have they been all my life? (*and not sure who McCoy is but he must have been a genuine Fella ;) )

  16. Teri says:

    The Henry: http://www.interiordefine.com/henry, please and thank you. Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. Jenny D says:

    Thank you for telling your story and im sorry this happened to you! You have the ability to reach tons of people and warn them and I’m thankful you used your scary situation to help others avoid the same thing! I have no idea if our house has co2 detectors but going to find out ASAP!

  18. Leah Prevost says:

    I love the EveryGirl chair! She’s a stunna;)
    Caitlin by The Everygirl – Chris Loves Julia Picks – Interior Define
    http://www.interiordefine.com/caitlin-chair

  19. Evelina says:

    I saw this on your Snapchat and it made me immediately check that my carbon monoxide detectors were in working order! So glad that you guys are all ok!
    PS- I’m totally loving the podcast!!
    Evelina @ Fortunate House

  20. Carrie Kolligian says:

    You can have CO leak without the detector going off as well, which is terrifying. My husband and I moved into our first home in January and smelled gas on and off for a couple of weeks before calling the gas company. We didn’t call them sooner because the smell was very faint and wasn’t always there, and we figured it was fine. When we did call, they immediately turned off the gas and advised us that the smell could dissipate in the air with normal movement. Looking back, I realize that I had been getting headaches and feeling generally crummy those few weeks. Moral of the story, if you think something is wrong with your house, you should probably check on it ASAP.

    • Julia says:

      Great advice!

    • Noelle says:

      That sounds like a natural gas leak… not CO. CO has no scent. Natural gas is not detected through a CO monitor (there are natural gas detectors but they put the scent in the gas to also help detect). We had a similar issue in our house. Natural gas is generally non-toxic but it is highly flamable and displaces oxygen. The scent they put in it can also cause headaches, etc…

  21. Alli says:

    Thanks for sharing. We have combined CO2/smoke detectors in every sleeping area but should definitely add one to our basement near our furnace. Ordering now. Glad all is OK.

  22. I was recently exposed myself, I had to be in the hospital for 2 days!

  23. Bonnie says:

    How scary! I remember that happening to my family when I was in college. It really is one of those things that you think will never happen to you until it does. So glad you had a happy ending and everyone is ok! Thanks for sharing such an important PSA!

  24. Loren says:

    Glad you and your family are safe. With so many people renovating and DIYing… I’m sure this post will help save more lives.

    Also, I’d love to know what it’s like to live next door to your parents. This in itself could make a really interesting blog.

    You’re an inspiration, and I’m glad you guys are ok.

    • Julia says:

      I’d love to talk all about that! In short, it’s been amazing.

      • wilma says:

        i’m jealous. i live 3.5 h by plane from my parents and siblings and their kids. *sigh*

    • Emily says:

      My husband and I live a block from my parents and I absolutely LOVE it. I’m sure it will be even better when we have kids (beyond our dog-baby, Bear). Granted, I’m close with my parents and they never stop by unannounced, so I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but it’s worked out so well for us. I’d love to hear Julia’s take as well!

    • Kristen says:

      I think this would make an interesting blog post as well!

      My mom is closing on a house a block away from us next week. :)

    • Megan A. says:

      My husband and I live about a half mile from his father and it’s the best! I didn’t think I’d like living so close to parents, but now I wouldn’t trade it. And we don’t even have kids yet. My parents are 7 hours away and my MIL passed away last year, so unfortunately we don’t have them close.

      Also, this post has made me re-check all of our CO & fire detectors in the house. It’s a really scary thing to happen.

  25. Steph M. says:

    We had this happen once when I was young, maybe 12. I was taking a bath and got really sleepy. I remember my brother yelling at me to get out and shortly after my dad banging the door open and helping me out of the house with the rest of my sisters. It was so scary and makes you realize how quick it can happen.

  26. Thank you for sharing, it is very important for everyone to be aware of the danger of carbon monoxide. I’m so glad you guys are all fine!

  27. Noelle says:

    Wow! Thank goodness you have the detectors and are all ok. I’ve gone a little crazy with the CO detectors and have multiple on each floor of our house after having read stories of tragedies. In a similar vein, there was a huge fire not far from where I live last winter that tragically took the lives of a whole family. I realized that we were not at all equipped to deal with a fire (besides having the recommended smoke detectors on each floor and in each sleeping area). I’ve since invested in fire extinguishers and window ladders for our upper floors. It’s so important to be aware of these household risks. I’ve had several people mention to me “Oh, well doesn’t CO smell like rotten eggs? I’d know if I had a problem.” Thanks for spreading the word and raising awareness!

    • Julia says:

      That’s such a good point and something I’ve thought about for a long time. It’s nice to make a house look good but it’s critical to make it safe.

      Also, tell your friends CO doesn’t smell like rotten eggs.

      • Noelle says:

        I tell them! Spreading the word :) We have actually had a natural gas leak from our generator so I know that issue well.

  28. Samantha says:

    Oh my gosh, that freaks me out good and proper! I’m so so SO glad you guys are ok!!!! We have a co monitor downstairs, but our upstairs one broke and I forgot to order a replacement until I read your post. Just ordered. Thanks!!! Seriously, so glad everything is ok with you guys!

  29. Barb says:

    Thank goodness you are all okay. I just ordered one for each level of my house. Thanks for the kick in the pants.

  30. Jill says:

    That is absolutely terrifying!! So glad your family is okay! We will definitely be ordering some CO detectors now.

  31. ss says:

    So where did it come from?

    • Julia says:

      We’re 90% sure the furnace, which we’re going to replace and not turn back on. But we’re still waiting for someone to come turn on the water heater (cold showers right now! yikes!) and make sure it’s in the clear. The fire department secured our house but they don’t fix things like that.

  32. Jamie says:

    Oh my gosh, that is SO scary!!! I’m so glad you and your family are okay, and definitely glad you shared on the blog! I’m going to be making sure our new house is fully equipped w/ CO detectors – sending hugs your way!

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