How My Carbon Monoxide Detector Saved Us - True Story

Protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.


It was 9:15 pm on a Friday night in our house; it was just another typical night in our household.

My overtired 19-month-old toddler had just finally drifted off to 'lala land' on my shoulder (I had kept her up late that night to spend extra time with her, because we were leaving for vacation the following morning and she would be staying with "grandma").  I had been rocking my daughter in the glider in her bedroom, and I was just standing up to go set my daughter in her crib when I suddenly heard Mr. Mia shouting loudly from the living room downstairs.  
My initial reaction was to tell Mr. Mia to "shhh!" because he was being so loud that I knew that he was going to wake up our finally-fell-asleep little toddler (it had taken me almost an hour of singing and rocking to get my overtired toddler to that groggy state), but then I heard something in his voice that somehow gave me the feeling that he wasn't just shouting upstairs to ask me one of his typical Mr. Mia type-of-questions (such as, "Where is my pen?" or "Where is the kitchen soap?" or "Where is my FILL IN THE BLANK WITH ANYTHING HE LEAVES ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER FOR LONGER THAN 3-DAYS AND THAT I THEN PUT INTO A DRAWER?"

Something in Mr. Mia's voice, as he called up our stairs, told me that this might be urgent.

It turns out that our carbon monoxide (CO) detector had detected carbon monoxide in our basement.  The Carbon Monoxide Alarm was going off - our CO detector has a voice alert and it kept saying, "WARNING! WARNING! CARBON MONOXIDE HAS BEEN DETECTED.  SEEK SAFETY." 

To be honest, initially, I was skeptical as to the accuracy of our CO detector's alarm.  Why? First, the CO detector had been sitting in a box in our basement (we hadn't installed it yet - it was left over from our prior apartment).  Second, my only prior experience with a carbon monoxide detector was a "false alarm" due to a faulty CO detector device. This false alarm had occurred while I was in college and back home at parents' house for holiday break, and I had spent hours being absolutely terrified until the firefighters informed me that that the CO alert was a false alarm due to a faulty device.  But this time was different.

I was wrong to be skeptical.  It turns out that this was not a false alarm.

This is the brand and model of the Carbon Monoxide Detector that may have just saved us: 
The Kidde KN-COSM-B Battery-Operated Combination 
Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarm with Talking Alarm

Thankfully, Mr. Mia was not-so-skeptical of the carbon monoxide alarm's alert.  Our carbon monoxide alarm didn't have a digital readout that could tell us the "level" of carbon monoxide that was present, so we do not know the level that was initially detected.  Mr. Mia ran downstairs and grabbed the beeping detector from the basement (where it had been in the room with our furnace and hot water heater), and the alarm stopped going off as soon as he brought the detector to our first-floor/main-floor level.  Then, as soon as he carried the carbon monoxide detector back downstairs to the basement, the alarm immediately started going off again.

The scarier part of this story, as I previously mentioned  is that we hadn't actually installed the carbon monoxide detector in our new house yet; we had purchased it for our old apartment, and it was still sitting in a storage box in our storage room (the same room as our hot water heater and furnace).  

By about 9:20 pm (5-minutes after I heard Mr. Mia shouting for the first time), I was standing in our front hallway, with a very sleepy baby on my shoulder, as Mr. Mia and I formulated our an action plan.  Our first step was getting us, especially our young daughter, out of the house immediately.  Mr. Mia held our daughter outside of the house as she slept on his shoulder, and I ran back inside the house for a blanket for our daughter; and then ran back into the house, again, and grabbed our two dogs.  We put our dogs inside of my car that was thankfully already parked in our driveway (and, therefore, out of the potentially poisonous house).  Then, I started to 'google' the telephone number for the fire department in our city, and I quickly realized Google was taking too long at getting me the answer for the correct fire department location, so I dialed 9-11.  This was the right decision.

The fire department arrived within about 10-13 minutes. 

Unlike my first experience with carbon monoxide, this time, it was not a false alarm.

The fire departments' equipment also detected carbon monoxide.  

The fire department called our local energy provider company to come out and inspect our situation.

Our local energy company's technician arrived at our house at about 10:15 pm, and their equipment also detected carbon monoxide.  

The fire department determined that the leak had come from either (a) our hot water heater, or (b) our furnace  however, the fire department could not determine which of the two that the leak was actually coming from (the furnace is usually the more dangerous of the two, as the furnace circulates air throughout your house - meaning that it would also be circulating carbon monoxide - this would kill you quickly); our local energy company professional had better equipment and he determined that the leak was coming from our hot water heater.    

Mr. Mia was "on duty," so to speak, with the fire department and the energy company.  What was I doing?  I was driving around our neighborhood with two extremely hyper dogs jumping around my car, with an already overtired toddler in the car seat - a toddler that I was trying to "soothe" back to sleep as I drove the car around my neighborhood 100 times.

Eventually, that night, the CO detectors for both the fire department and the CO detectors that belonged to our energy company stopped detecting CO.  This was a good sign,  but we still didn't understand why or how the leak was occurring, or why it had suddenly appeared to have stopped.

The fire department, and our energy company, advised us to open the windows, and "to be really safe," they advised us to evacuate our house until we could have a professional inspect our hot water tank and furnace.

The following morning, we had a heating and cooling professional, along with a plumbing professional, come look at our hot water tank and furnace   The ultimate theory for the CO leak is that there was an air circulation issue in our house (long story...that's a whole other post), and that had somehow caused our hot water heater to emit CO.  

Did you know that a bird's nest can cause a carbon monoxide build-up in your home?

I'm still scared.

But I'm also extremely grateful.  Thank God we had a Carbon Monoxide detector sitting in a U-Haul moving box in our basement.  What if we hadn't?  We got extremely lucky.  We assumed that our smoke alarms had a CO detector built-in (which was a stupid assumption), but our smoke alarms, in fact, did not.   Again, thank God we had a detector in our basement.  

One of the other scariest parts of this mess was that we were leaving for vacation the next day, and our dogs were going to be in our house while we were on vacation (we had a dog-walker and family to come to our house to take care of the dogs while we were gone).  What if this would have happened just one day later, while we were gone?  What would have happened to our dogs?

Please let this be a reminder to you - a reminder to install Carbon Monoxide Detectors on every level of your home.  Over 200 people die each year from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.  It's known as the "silent killer" in homes.  

Top Rated Carbon Monoxide Detectors:
The Kidde KN-COSM-B Battery-Operated Combination 
Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarm with Talking Alarm

Kidde KN-COPP-LPM Battery-Operated Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Digital Display
Kidde KN-COP-IC Hardwire Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Battery Backup and Digital Display, Interconnectable

Make your family's Carbon Monoxide safety a priority today.
Purchase a Carbon Monoxide Detector for each floor of your home.
If you have a Carbon Monoxide Detector, change the battery, and make a note to do so on a semi-annual basis.

Post a Comment


  1. Anonymous03 June

    I am so glad that the Mommy Mia family is safe!

    Because carbon monoxide is lighter than oxygen, if the detector is placed too high, it may not be as safe as you think. It is also important to read the installation instructions carefully and install the carbon monoxide detector in the best place.

    1. Good tip about height!

      OMG, I just emailed hubby to get us one!!

    2. That really is a great tip, Joan. The firemen told us the same thing the night that our detector went off. He said that if the CO detector is too high, that by the time it detects the carbon monoxide, that it's too late. (But like you also said, follow the instructions for your individual CO detector device/model).

      I have to wonder about the smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector combination models - because smoke alarms typically are placed on your ceiling, so wouldn't that be too high for a CO detector (if it's a smoke alarm/CO detector combo)? Do these devices detect CO differently somehow? I didn't buy the smoke alarm/CO detector combo because it made me wonder if they were as effective. I have some Googling to do...

    3. Yunnie, I'm really happy that you're ordering one. My sister didn't have one installed in her house either. The installation of carbon monoxide detectors by home builders for new home construction has only just recently become a requirement in our state (within the last few years), which makes me wonder how many other families don't have these devices installed in their homes. That makes me sad, because even non-lethal (non-deadly) levels of carbon monoxide exposure (for adults) can still have devastating consequences.


Leave a Comment!