Take precautions against carbon monoxide

Published 9:52 am Friday, February 27, 2015

“I’m not going to leave you both here to get carbon monoxide poisoning,” I exclaimed to my wife as I grabbed the car keys. The trusty carbon monoxide detector was going off, and it was time for us to get out of there. Readers, please take note that fleeing is not the proper immediate response to a carbon monoxide detector going off (calling emergency professionals is a good place to start), but we had reason to flee.

Honestly, we were pretty sure it wasn’t beeping to alert us of poison in the air, but instead the lifesaving device needed to have its battery changed. The instructions said it will beep once every 15 seconds if the batteries are low, and will beep three times rapidly if carbon monoxide is detected. While we definitely weren’t getting the three-beep alarm, the single beeps were far from 15 seconds apart. After a quick search through the kitchen drawers and not finding any batteries, I decided a quick trip to the store was in order.

As my wife frequently states when I’m walking too fast, this was a, “No Sera left behind!” mission. But it was more than that too; I wasn’t about to leave our dog Beesly alone in the house if by chance we were exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide. Plus, Beesly was doing her best Lassie impression by attempting to alert us of the danger.

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Sera and I were upstairs when the detector initially began to sound, but we didn’t hear it. Instead we heard Beesly’s repeated cries. Our dog always loves to be in our presence, so I had just assumed she was being a little high maintenance and wanted attention. When I realized she was alerting us to a pesky beep, it was clear that Beesly was no ordinary dog; she was sent to alert us to impending doom. Her tail was wagging, her mouth was grinning, and she pranced around the dining area whining with excitement at every ear-piercing beep. I couldn’t leave her behind.

After opening two windows, all three of us ventured to the store down the street where I promptly dashed inside to buy a battery while my two passengers listened to my wife’s music as a distraction from the potentially dangerous situation we’d be returning to at home. After grabbing the battery, milk, cereal and some ice cream (because sometimes you need the essentials on an emergency trip), we returned home for the true test.

I picked up the still beeping carbon monoxide detector and inserted the battery (of course the wrong way initially). The beeps continued, so I hopelessly pressed the reset button as a last resort. Silence.

It was the most wonderful silence we’d heard in a long time. Honestly, the tags on Beesly’s collar were still clanging and she was still whining a little bit out of excitement, but the beeping had stopped. Our home was indeed free from carbon monoxide, and we now have extra batteries for the next time it beeps.

An average of 430 people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning. You can get a detector for around $25 to protect your family from this silent killer. Odds are it’ll never go off, but you’ll probably be thankful you invested in a detector if it ever does start beeping.

If you already do have a carbon monoxide detector, now is a great time to replace its battery. Experts on the Internet recommend replacing both the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector and smoke detectors twice a year when you reset the clock for daylight saving time. I’m a little early this year (we still have about a week), so go ahead and stock up on batteries now.

Our situation ended well, but that doesn’t always happen. Take precautions to protect yourself and your family, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Odds are your carbon monoxide detectors will come with some great instructions on what to do in case of an emergency, and it’s best to know what those are before the emergency begins.


Rochester resident Matt Knutson is the communications and events director for United Way of Olmsted County.