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Everett woman grateful she had carbon
monoxide detectors after scare


EVERETT — Laura Martin is still thankful she pressed for the carbon monoxide detectors that this December undoubtedly saved her life.
As she slept, the poisonous gas filled her house. The alarms sounded around 3 a.m., and she shut them off and went back to bed; the second alarm told her something was definitely wrong.
After calling 911, firefighters found her home had upwards of 300 parts per million of carbon monoxide inside. It took hours to air it out with all the windows open.
Exposure to 400 parts per million can be lethal after three hours, according to a leading medical general reference book by Dr. Lawrence Tierney Jr.
Carbon monoxide kills because it suppresses oxygen in the body.
Maritn’s culprit was the oil burning furnace in the basement. The gases had ample time to spread to her upstairs bedroom.
She’s not sure how it leaked, but said she’s now keeping it off until an expert checks it out.
“(Carbon monoxide) is called ‘the silent killer’ because you don’t notice it,” Martin said.
That’s why she emphasizes that carbon monoxide detectors — which sell for about $20 at general merchandise stores — should be on your priority list. They belong in bedrooms and on each floor of the house. They should be placed away from doors or windows, alarm manufacturers say.
State law today requires carbon monoxide detectors are installed before a homebuyer takes up residence. Landlords must equip rentals with them as well.
For those without, “there’s no reason not to have them,” she said.
Carbon monoxide is generally odorless, unlike natural gas leaks. It is invisible, unlike smoke.
The signs of poisoning include lethargy, headache, nausea and fatigue being felt by everyone in the house.
In Martin’s case, the thirtysomething paralegal had a weird pain in her stomach from the carbon monoxide.
Getting outside to fresh air and calling 911 are two immediate actions to take, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says in a warning sheet.
More than 500 Americans die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, and it sickens 50,000 others
enough to require medical treatment. Three-fourths of the poisonings are from indoor heating sources, usually when they are faulty.
Gas water heaters, camp stoves, lanterns, kitchen gas stoves, and other fuel-burning products all have been attributed causes of fatal
carbon monoxide exposures. You should never run a gasoline-powered engine, including a generator, anywhere inside the home or garage.
The EPA notes to “keep all vents, chimneys and flues unobstructed and free of debris, especially in high winds. Flying debris and blowing snow can block chimneys and flues.”
Even after airing the house out, Martin said there was a distinct, almost burning smell that lingered for two weeks.
Firefighters get false alarms all the time, but Martin said her case startled them. “He said as soon as I opened the door that something was off,” she said.
She said her 1952 home has a wood stove, electric heat and the oil furnace.
There is a happy twist. While at the scene, a firefighter briefly asked if Martin would like some firewood.
Firefighter Mike Morton wasn’t kidding. He returned a couple weeks later with some crewmates where they stacked a half cord or more of wood outside her house.
“I didn’t expect nearly what he gave me,” Martin said. “They went above and beyond the call of duty.”
Her thank you gift? A plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
It was the least she could do.

 

  

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