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Carbon monoxide gives scare to family

November 19, 1996

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

Marilyn Rudolph did not realize that a silent killer had invaded her Halfway home on Sunday night until an alarm sounded.

She ignored the carbon monoxide detector's alarm three times. But when it went off again, she, her husband and 16-year-old son left the 17630 Meadowood Drive house and called the fire department.

Halfway Volunteer Assistant Fire Chief Doug DeHaven said firefighters found dangerously high levels of poisonous carbon monoxide gas throughout the house when they arrived at about 10 p.m.

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The levels were especially high in the second-floor bedrooms. Firefighters with air quality sensors measured carbon monoxide levels of 200 parts per million. Normal is about 2 or 3 parts per million, DeHaven said. People can become ill at levels of 35 parts per million.

Rudolph said she thinks the carbon monoxide detector given to her by her daughter and son-in-law last Christmas may have saved their lives.

"My (other) children are now going to get those from me for Christmas," Rudolph said.

Carbon monoxide detectors sell for about $50. "It's well worth it," she said.

The carbon monoxide buildup was caused by a faulty furnace, said Rudolph, who was home Monday night waiting for a furnace repairman to arrive.

"It made me nervous. I wasn't sure I wanted to come back in the house," Rudolph said. "And you think of the possibilities and what could have happened if we had not had" a detector.

Firefighters recommend people install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes, DeHaven said.

He would like to see carbon monoxide detectors become standard safety devices, as have smoke detectors now found in many home.

Carbon monoxide, a byproduct of combustion, is deadly because it is odorless, tasteless and therefore not easily detected. It forms in automobile engines, and is generated by coal stoves, furnaces and the like.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu, "which would not alarm them that something was wrong with the air," DeHaven said.

Symptoms of drowsiness and headache can be followed by unconsciousness, respiratory failure and death.

Firefighters shut off the furnace and appliances Sunday night and then aired out the house.

Rudolph and her husband and son were examined by an ambulance crew at the scene and they did not need medical treatment.

DeHaven said the incident shows the role carbon monoxide detectors can play in saving lives.

DeHaven offered the following tips:

  • If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, call the fire department and leave the house. Carbon monoxide detectors will sound false alarms, but it is best to assume there's carbon monoxide in the air.
  • Check the flues and pipes of the furnace and appliances to make sure they are not clogged and are working properly.
  • Have furnace and appliances serviced regularly.
  • Make sure the carbon monoxide detector is clean. Vacuum it out to prevent dust from building up inside and follow the manufacturer's guidelines for servicing.
  • Test the detector monthly and, if it is battery operated, replace batteries regularly.
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