Carbon monoxide detectors credited for saving life of Deer Lake councillor, family
© Paul Hutchings
Deer Lake Councillor Jean Young and her family had a scare over the holiday season when a malfunction in her home’s oil furnace set off the carbon monoxide detector she is holding.
Local fire department representatives were called out to the home of a Deer Lake family Dec. 27 after carbon monoxide levels peaked in their home, causing the alarm to engage.
Coun. Jean Young said it was just a normal evening when her alarm suddenly began making noise. Her home has both a wood stove and an oil furnace but she initially thought the simplest answer was the correct one — they first checked the battery.
“The furnace is about 35 years old but it never gave us any problem before; it ran well,” she said. “But the new batteries gave the same reading and so we called for help and opened up all the windows."
When Deer Lake fire Chief John Dinney arrived on the scene, readings showed the carbon monoxide levels in the councillor’s home at over 30,000 PPM in the house, but over 50,000 near the furnace.
Dinney said catastrophe could have ensued that night if the carbon monoxide detectors were not installed and in good working order.
Young had a small grandchild staying with her, as well as other family members.
“It was a bad leak when we got there, in the high 50s is considered extreme,” said Dinney. “Older furnaces need to be checked every year ... When furnaces get old things can go wrong with them quickly.”
He said everyone should employ common sense and have at least one carbon monoxide detector installed in their place of residence.
They should be installed about a foot below the ceiling because carbon monoxide rises over oxygen.
“Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. You can’t see it, smell or taste it,” said Dinney. “And if an alarm goes off people need to call the fire department directly and immediately.”
According to the Canada Safety Council, carbon monoxide is the leading cause of fatal poisonings in North America, with exposure to high concentrations causing death in just a few minutes. In exposure to low concentrations, individuals experience shortage of breath, nausea, headaches and dizziness.
Higher concentrations, according to their website, lead to severe headaches, mental confusion, and impairment of vision and hearing. Extreme conditions can lead to coma or death.
“We’ve already had a technician come up and look at the furnace,” Young said. “It’s not being turned on again; we’re replacing that furnace. We’re very happy that we have a carbon monoxide detector in the house ... we could have become really sick or worse.”