24 November 2005

Carbon Monoxide

What a great way to start off the day. I got up at 0445 to get a drink. While I was in the kitchen I heard a beeping noise. It just sounded like the smoke detector when the battery is low. I walked in between my room, the hallway and the living room trying to figure out what was beeping. Then it started beeping more often, and another alarm went off. The Carbon Monoxide detector in my bedroom started blaring, so I knew something was up. My roommate came out of her room because her detector was also going off. So, I called 911.

The dispatcher told me to go outside and wait for the fire department to arrive. It was probably 10 degrees outside, so I waited in the foyer area by the garages. The fire department came in with their detectors for CO. They got readings around 85 in my apartment, so we weren't allowed back in. They thought it was our water heater. They wrote up some papers for us and had the maintenance guy wait with us for the gas company.

About 5 minutes later, while we were still sitting in the upstairs hallway/stairwell, one of the firefighters came back up to tell us it wasn't our water heater. They had the detector on when they were walking back out to the truck and they got a reading over 500 ppm in the foyer area and by the garages. Great. That's where I was standing for the 10 minutes waiting for the fire department to arrive. They got into the garage that was reading especially high (around 600). There was a golf cart that the apartment complex uses for maintenance plugged in that they suspected was off-gassing because of old batteries. This created all the CO and was leaking into our apartment.

The scary thing is that the only apartments that have CO detectors in my complex are the ones above the garages. That means that the apartments on the first floor where the readings were 500 ppm in the hallway, had no idea because they don't have detectors. Also, all the apartments in my hallway had high readings also and didn't know it. Even in the hallway by my apartment they were getting readings upwards of 80 ppm. We actually had to move out into the stairwell that had more ventilation because the levels were too high.

All in all it turned out okay. Maintenance moved the golf cart out and unplugged it. Our detectors continued to go off for about an hour. We opened up our windows to air out the apartment and went back to bed. I had one of my coworkers call me about an hour after I went to bed to make sure I would wake up. Which, obviously, I did.

I am definitely an advocate for CO detectors now. Had I not had them in my apartment I would probably not be here to write my blog today. Even though the levels were only around 85 ppm when our detectors went off, the levels were continuously going up until they removed the golf cart from the garage. At 500 ppm you would probably never wake up. I thank god for having the CO detectors and for the fire department actually taking the time to search the building for possible sources of the carbon monoxide. If they had just left after thinking it was coming from the water heater, and allowed us back in the apartment after the gas company came, instead of searching the first floor and garages, the outcome of this incident probably would have been very different. I will thank God every day.

Now I am over at a friends house for Thanksgiving. It is going to be a good night. I plan on eating my turkey and enjoying a night out of the house.


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