What To Do When a Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off

Posted by Ben Thompson on 03.24.11

Last night at 11:15 Kristin and the kids were asleep and I was sitting in my chair watching TV when all of the detectors in the house went off at once and a none too reassuring voice shouted, “Carbon Monoxide Alert…[repeatedly].”  So what are you supposed to do then?  Here’s what we did.

1. Open the windows to get fresh air / go outside

2. Get a head count – wake the kids up and make sure everyone is conscious

3. Turn off all sources of combustion (furnace, water heater, gas stove/oven, etc). The only apliance running was our water heater so I turned off the gas supply and then turned the second gas control knob off.

4. We were pretty sure we were leaving but I chose to reset the alarm… and 3 minutes later it went off again

5. We confirmed our decision to go to a hotel

6. This morning I called my heating and cooling professional to come find the source

7. I called my plumber to price a new water heater (I’m pretty sure that’s the culprit – the oldest appliance in the house) and we’re due for a new one. Preferably a direct vent water heater.

Now there was one step I didn’t mention.  Step 4B was to go upstairs and google symptoms of CO poisoning.  Wouldn’t you know I instantly got a headache and my stomach felt queezy.  Carbon Monoxide is known as a silent killer.  It is odorless, tasteless, and essentially undetectable.  One possible signal that an appliance is potentially dangerous is that the flame is weak or lazy.

Two action steps that I am requesting of you:

1. Get a carbon monoxide detector and hardwired smoke detectors – all of which I prefer to have a licensed electrician install.

2. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Topics: Thompson Tips, Care & Maintenance, carbon monoxide, smoke detector