What To Do When A Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off

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 appliance running was our water heater so I turned off the gas supply and then turned the second gas control knob to 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.