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October 22nd, 2022

The Dead Birds That Saved Lives…

Sometime after I bought the house the furnace that was in it suffered a cracked heat exchanger and my CO detectors went off. Since just then I didn’t know for certain what was causing my CO detectors to alert, my first instinct was to call the gas company. But the gas company says no, first you call the fire department.

Here’s why…

1 dead, 10 hospitalized from carbon monoxide leak after birds alert firefighters

AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – One person has died following a carbon monoxide leak at an Ohio apartment complex in which pet birds alerted firefighters to the danger.

A fire crew had been called to an older man’s apartment for a medical emergency. He seemed confused, disoriented. While they examined him the old man asked about his birds…he had almost a dozen of them. One of the firemen looked over at a cage…and saw four dead birds on the bottom of it. There was a carbon monoxide leak somewhere in the apartment complex.

They went door to door checking for CO in the apartments and looking for the leak.  Behind one door they had to break down they found a family and kids already unconscious and got them to the hospital. In all, one resident was found in their bathroom, dead, and ten were taken to the hospital. 

This is why when, years ago, I called the gas company they told me no, call the fire department. The fire department can break down doors if they have to in order to fight a fire, or track down where a CO leak is coming from. In my case, though I was pretty sure the CO was coming from my furnace, the fire department had to make sure it wasn’t coming from somewhere else, or got into any other units next to or near mine. After they localized it to my furnace, They called the gas company, who came with a more sensitive detector and eventually showed me where on the heat exchanger the crack was, and then put a little Out Of Service tag on my furnace. (Not that I was likely to turn it back on again!)

I had space heaters and it wasn’t so bitterly cold just then, but I ended up having to spend about five grand for an entire new furnace. Upside was the new one is a Lot more efficient than the one that was there.

I’ve written about this previously. My CO detectors probably saved my life. At the time I had two of them, one in the basement near the furnace, and the other in my bedroom. Now I have them on all three floors. They’re a tad pricey and you have to replace them periodically, but they can save your life so just get some. The rule of thumb is you put your CO detectors near the floor, and your smoke detectors near the ceiling.

[Update…] I’m told now that putting your CO detectors near the floor is a myth. Usually people put them there because they often need to be plugged into an electric outlet, but they can go nearly anywhere because CO mixes easily with the air in a room. I would still recommend putting one near your bed at head level…but…wherever seems to be fine as long as one is near the bedroom and none of them are too close to fuel fed appliances like a stove or furnace.

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