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Carbon Monoxide Detectors - Saving Lives & Embarrassment
It's every parent's worse nightmare...a knock on the front door late on a cold and snowy winter's night.
An elderly gentleman answers the door, his wife and two young children behind him, as he looks into the police officer's eyes. The blue and red lights of the police vehicle parked in the driveway add a surrealistic quality to the moment as they pulse with the rhythm of a giant heartbeat.
"Excuse me, sir..." the policeman begins politely, "do you know a Laurie ******?"
The older man pales and his wife slips her hand into his, tenderly giving it a squeeze, letting him know that he is not facing this news alone.
"Yes...I'm her father...Laurie's...Dad," he manages to say past the sudden constriction in his throat; his eyes beginning to fill with moisture in anticipation of bad news.
There is a tension filled silence between them. The bereft father stands there as the snow flakes fall and cling to the strands of gray on his head, while the police officer takes a deep breath of the cold air before continuing. The young officer is inexperienced and is already regretting having volunteered for this assignment. His intuition tells him that he is not handling this quite right...and he flounders about, searching for the proper words. He gets as far as, "Sir..."
Bear Feet Slippers
The police officer's explanation is cut short as the small group's attention is drawn to a pair of headlights coming up the road, winding back and forth upon the wooded hill. The beams bounce wildly off the snow-laden boughs of pine trees, jagged granite boulders and finally the mailbox as the vehicle fishtails, barely missing it, before sliding into the driveway and coming to a fortunate stop inches from the police car. Speechless, they watch as the passenger door flies open, ejecting a figure dressed in flannel pajamas, winter coat and furry bear foot slippers.
"Dad!" the figure yells, slipping and sliding through the freshly fallen snow as she makes her way to the gathering by the front door.
The father lifts a hand to his furrowed brow and squints into the blinding headlights. "Laurie?" he says in a disbelieving and yet oddly hopeful voice. "Laurie? Is that you?"
Finally, she reaches them and without hesitation squirms her way in between the amused police officer and her completely baffled father. "Dad!" she cries again in obvious relief, "I'm so glad you are okay!" With that, she wraps her arms around him and hugs him tightly in a manner that suggests she may never let go.
Confused, the father returns the hug and mouths to the police officer in a very audible whisper, "I thought you said she was dead."
Suddenly everyone started talking at once...
"I never said she was dead, sir," the police officer said in an offended tone, "why would I say that when she obviously isn't?"
"Well you asked my husband if he knew her!" Dawn, my father's wife interjected in his defense.
"What was I supposed to think?" my father said, adding to the general mayhem. "If it wasn't that...then what are you doing here knocking on my door in the middle of the night?"
"I'm HERE..." the officer said in complete aggravation, "because SHE called the police department and asked us to come up here to check on you."
As all eyes turned to me, I realized what had happened and all I could think to say was..."Oops."
Realizing that this could take a bit of time to explain and that the explaining was probably best done in an environment that wasn't as cold as the outdoors, Dawn invited us all in for hot chocolate. I peeled off my soggy bear foot slippers and held my cold toes up to the fireplace.
"Well?" asked my father, "We're listening..."
I took a sip of my hot chocolate and began my tale...
The deadly little molecule...
It was a typical weeknight and in the dead of winter, there's not much to do except for curl up on the couch with a warm blanket and watch television. The local station was doing one of its usual specials on the hazards of living in New Hampshire. In some ways, it was a comforting ritual. There was the program that warned everyone about the possibility of chimney fires when the initial frost arrived, followed by the dangers of over-strenuous snow shoveling after the first snow fall. This was then pre-empted by the combustibility of poorly watered Christmas trees once a family had been burned out of their home during the holidays and then after that...well...it was the program I was currently watching. The dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning...
Every year, hundreds of people are killed by this colorless, odorless gas...especially in the winter and even more so in northern states. It enters the home, leaking from gas powered appliances, oil burning furnaces, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves. In a well insulated home, all it takes is for a vent to be accidentally blocked by...oh...drifting snow...for example and it becomes a death trap.
CO Poisoining - Know the Signs
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are easy to dismiss. A headache, tiredness, queasiness and flu-like symptoms, especially in the winter could easily be attributed to a common cold or the latest bug going around the office.
I never worried about carbon monoxide gas in my apartment. The place leaked like a sieve, forcing the radiators to work overtime, disgorging bursts of steam while the pipes clanked loudly. My husband often complained about the noise, but I found it oddly comforting.
My father's house though...that was a different story. He lived with his family in the middle of the woods, twenty miles north in the town of Weare, NH. His appliances were gas and in the winter he used a combination of oil and wood to heat his home. I looked out of the night-darkened window, mesmerized by the snow dancing in the light of the closest streetlamp while I listened to the snicker and hiss as icy pellets hit the glass panes. By morning, there would be a fresh foot or two of snow upon the ground, but due to the capriciousness of the wind, it wouldn't be a uniform depth.
There was a time when the drifting had been so bad that I had been forced to call my neighbor to come and dig me out. My front door had been completely buried and the back door hadn't fared very well either. What if something like that happened to my father's house...what if he never realized that a snow drift was covering a vent and the carbon monoxide continued to build up in his house?
Hadn't he complained about not feeling well recently...a headache or the flu? Perhaps he had only sneezed, but I couldn't be sure. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more worried I grew and finally my conviction that my family was in imminent peril was all consuming. I picked up the phone to call...
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (CO) Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment by eMedicineHealth.com
Learn about Carbon monoxide poisoning (CO), a colorless, odorless gas and is the leading causes of accidental deaths in the US. It is often called the Silent Killer. Sources of CO include gas water heaters, charcoal grills, propane heaters and stoves
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Devoted to the understanding of Carbon Monoxide and the reduction of needless deaths by Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detectors & Carbon Monoxide Alarms. Carbon Monoxide Protection From
Describes the various carbon monoxide alarms and detectors available from First Alert, including hard wired, battery powered and battery backup detectors. Carbon monoxide detector protection from First Alert.
"Hello! This is Dawn. We can't come to the phone right now, but if you leave a message we'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you for calling and have a nice day." Beep.
Hearing the answering machine was so disconcerting that I almost forgot to leave a message. It wasn't that I'd never gotten their answering machine before...just never on a week night...this late...when they should be home putting their children to bed so they could be up for school the next day. They were always so predictable. Obviously something was amiss.
"Umm...hi, yeah..this is Laurie. Just calling to say hi...uh...call me when you get this message. Where are you guys...it's a week night! Bye."
Gary saw me standing there in the kitchen with a frown on my face. "Are they okay?" he asked. I shrugged and told him I didn't know...the answering machine had taken my call. Well...perhaps they had stepped out to the store for something. I'd give it a little while and if I hadn't heard back...I'd call again.
I'm not a very patient person at times, this being one of those times. I paced, I fidgeted, I cleaned the kitchen and the entire time my imagination was painting macabre pictures of the phone ringing in their living room while they were sprawled about on various pieces of furniture in a state of eternal unconsciousness.
By 9 o'clock p.m. I figured they had to be home. Having grown up under my father's iron rules, I knew that 9 o'clock was the strict time for bedtime on a school night. Surely they would abide by that and be available to answer my call.
"Hello! This is Dawn. We can't come to the phone right now..."
I hung up before it even reached the beep and started dialing directory assistance.
"Who are you calling now?" Gary asked after seeing my look of determination.
"The police," I answered, "I'm still not getting an answer and now I'm really worried. At the very least they can do a drive by and check it out."
Weare, NH is a very small town. As Dawn was fond of saying, everyone knew everyone else's business...which was not always a good thing. My father occasionally delivered the mail in this mostly rural area and my stepmother wrote a monthly column for the local newspaper. She had a talent for tickling everyone's funny bone. So, although my family had never run afoul of the law, the local police force knew them and was more than happy to take a drive out to check on them. Before hanging up, I made the officer promise to call me as soon as he had word.
A half an hour later, Gary and I were tossing on our coats and heading for the door. "I'm sure they would have called if something was wrong," Gary said as he started the car. I was grimly silent for the forty minute trip, already planning which window I was going to smash in first to let in the fresh air.
Of course, when I saw the red and blue flashing lights outside of my father's house...I knew I was too late...
And well, you know the rest of the story.
New Homes Are At Greater Risk
How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
To my relief my father began to laugh. Dawn shook her head and said, "I see...it's MY fault then. I just thought that perhaps a quiet night at home with the family would be rather nice...no interruptions...so I turned off the ringer. I didn't even see that we had a message or I would have called you back."
With all of the questions answered, the police officer stood up and thanked my family for the hot chocolate, retrieved his jacket from the coat rack and began to shrug himself into it.
"I'm so sorry," I said to him, "for all the problems I've caused tonight. I really didn't mean for anything like this to happen."
He smiled, chuckled and then shook his head. "Nah," he said, "I didn't mind at all. It's nice to see a family that really cares about each other for a change." And with that, he walked out into the storm and waved goodbye before getting into his car and leaving.
As Gary and I prepared to leave, I still couldn't shake the vestige of fear that still clung to me. Sure, this had been a happy ending...but it might not have been. It could have all been so very different.
My father can be perceptive when he wants to be and as we said goodbye, he promised me that the next day he would go into Concord and purchase a couple of carbon monoxide detectors. He did...and now if he doesn't answer the phone, I just call the fire department. They don't mind...they're all volunteers anyway.
Dawn got her revenge eventually. I understand that the town of Weare was enjoying a good laugh while reading the next monthly column about her deranged step-daughter. Even better, a lot of her neighbors were inspired to go out and purchase their own carbon monoxide detectors.
But all joking aside...it's not a bad idea to have one or two carbon monoxide detectors in your home. They're just as important as a smoke detector and could save your life. I only say this because I worry about you...