We never gave carbon monoxide detectors much thought until this week.
Last Saturday morning began with a minor scare.
Our carbon monoxide detector started beeping. I panicked and took the dog outside while my husband checked the device. Fortunately, it only wanted to tell us it needed a new battery, so we changed it immediately. When it read 0, we relaxed.
I'm not even sure we had a carbon monoxide detector in our previous homes. I think we probably left one at our old condo in Minnesota, and I don't even remember seeing one in our last apartment. In fact, I don't remember ever owning one in any of my apartments.
I read a newspaper article this week about a couple who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in our hometown of Mason City, and the news media has been offering lots of advice about winter home safety ever since.
Early Wednesday morning, I woke up and smelled gas. I second guessed myself and wondered if I was actually smelling remnants of dinner from the previous evening or if it was my husband's new shampoo. My sense of smell is extra sensitive.
Our air filter's light turns red and runs on high, which is very unusual, thus prompting us to glance at the carbon monoxide detector in the hallway. It's reading numbers that are climbing quickly with each second.
We scramble to open up the door and windows and, with shaky hands, I try to find the energy company's emergency phone number.
A man quickly answers and tell me someone will be here shortly. He advises us to get out of the house immediately and stay with a neighbor or in our car.
Like chickens with our heads cut off, we race around the house and open more windows. We try to collect our phones and the dog, throw on enough clothing to appear decent in public, and I pop in my contacts. Then, we jump into my car and wait.
It turns out there is a gas leak. A significant one. The energy company representative arrives in 10 minutes and turns everything off. He encourages us to stay out of the house for a while so I wait in the car with the dog until the furnace company arrives. We feel unsettled to learn the highest concentration of carbon monoxide was in our bedroom, where we were just sleeping.
The bad news is that we had to break into our savings account to purchase a new furnace. The spectacular news is that we are safe.
We're thanking God our detector reminded us to change our batteries and that we took it seriously enough to change them promptly.
Please check your detector. Make sure it is fully operational and that its batteries are charged. Carbon monoxide detectors don't last forever, either, so consider replacing yours if it is over five years old. I'm a little scared by the fact that we just kept the detector we inherited when we bought our house and horrified that I've lived in places without one.
After this close call, I bought a new detector. Hell, I'll probably even buy two.
Take carbon monoxide detectors seriously, even if you schedule annual furnace inspections. You never expect to need one until you actually do!
Ours saved our lives.