For me, one of the scariest moments at home is when I hear an alarm and do not know where it’s coming from. This happened to me last year after we lost power during a storm. I was asleep, but suddenly I awoke to a loud beeping noise. It sounded as if it were coming from downstairs in the basement. Cautiously, I grabbed a flashlight and went downstairs to listen where the sound was coming from. Finally I found the source: a white box plugged into the wall that read, “CARBON MONOXIDE DECTECTOR.”
The last time I heard the words "carbon monoxide" was back in my AP chemistry class, and I could not remember what exactly carbon monoxide was.
So like your typical 21 year old college student I pulled out my smart phone and searched for carbon monoxide. The results stated, “Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly less dense than air. It is toxic to humans…” I did not need to read anymore. Let the freak out begin! I had two young nephews under the age of 10 and four siblings that were home, so of course this alarm was concerning to me.
I decided to put my Googling skills to the test again, this time on carbon monoxide poisoning. The CDC webpage stated, ‘The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” If you breathe in a lot of CO it can make you pass out or kill you….’ Again, I did not need to read anymore.
I began alerting my siblings that we might need to evacuate. My brother’s room is in the basement, so I made him come upstairs. I called my dad, who told me not to worry about it, but the detector was still going off, so of course that did not ease my level of concern. Everyone evacuated, and I called 911.
Immediately the fire department came out to our home and brought a carbon monoxide detector to check. False alarm, praise God. Apparently the carbon monoxide detector has back-up battery if the power goes out, and with our house’s power out, the detector switched to battery. We hadn’t checked the batteries, and they were low. The loud alarm we were hearing was the detector warning us that we weren’t completely protected.
The firefighter reminded us that we should check the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector every few months. Carbon monoxide is a serious poisonous gas, and we need to make sure our detector is working properly at all times—especially since the gas is colorless and odorless. Even so, the firefighter told us we did the right thing and evacuated. We’re now careful to keep the batteries charged in the detector so the next time it goes off, we’ll know we have an actual carbon monoxide leak, not just a low battery.
This post was submitted by reader Lydie, who is a college student studying public health. Have a story to share? Send it to us here.
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