For family, alarm brings about awareness of silent killer
Carbon monoxide monitor awakens Elses.
Roused from deep sleep in the middle of the night by loud beeping, Dan and Trudy Else and their daughter Becca found themselves out in the cold for awhile.
It all started about 1:30 a.m. a couple of weeks ago when Trudy and Becca arose to see the origin of the annoying noise.
Once they realized it was the carbon monoxide alarm, Trudy said they unplugged and re-plugged the alarm.“ERR” showed on the display which, according to the manual, meant the device was not working properly, she said.
“So I unplugged it and went back to bed,” Trudy said.
As she tried to go back to sleep, she remembered a newspaper story she wrote about a family in Cozad which was lucky to escape alive when they discovered a carbon monoxide leak.
Trudy lives in Gothenburg, teaches in Cozad and also is a freelance writer.
Although none of the Elses had symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning such as headaches, dizziness or nausea, wondering whether the odorless gas was present weighed on her mind.
She then called local police, thinking officers might have a carbon monoxide detector and opened the front door to let in fresh air.
“I hated to get people out in the middle of the night and it was very cold,” Trudy said. “But I knew it had to be checked out for our safety.”
Once Officer Joe Humphrey arrived, he was followed by six local fire fighters. They, along with Trudy’s husband Dan, checked the furnace which she said is an older model.
The installation of new batteries stopped the beeping but the Else family still didn’t know if the detector was defective or carbon monoxide was seeping into the air.
“The only sure way to know was to call the gas company and have them send over one of their employees with their calibrated detectors,” Trudy said. “I hated to get anyone out of bed and into the cold but a local volunteer fireman encouraged us do that.”
Trudy said the volunteer said: “We don’t want to come back in the morning and pick up three bodies.”
A gas company representative from Cozad arrived, checked the house and found no evidence of carbon monoxide.
She said he explained that the plug-in detectors don’t last forever and need to be replaced every few years.
Because their detector was about seven years old, Trudy said they bought a new detector and fire alarms with new batteries the next day.
“We were lucky it was a false alarm because it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Trudy said.
She then wrote a letter to the editor which appeared in The Times and was willing to share more of the story to encourage everyone to check and replace older model carbon monoxide detectors and fire alarms.
Gothenburg fire chief Mark Ballmer said the department averages about three to four calls a year from residents with malfunctiong carbon monoxide monitors.
In the past two years, all have been from monitors that need to be replaced.
Ballmer recommends changing batteries in monitors, as well as in smoke alarms, every six months.
“You might do it when the time changes to remember,” he said.
The fire chief also suggests installing monitors on every floor of the house, especially near heating sources like furnaces.
“It’s a silent killer, usually caused by a malfunction of the furnance or by a plugged vent pipe,” Ballmer explained.
If high carbon monoxide levels are suspected in a home, he said to call the local gas company which has
Find the complete story in our print edition. Receive the entire issue of the Gothenburg Times on-line in PDF format each Wednesday for only $25 per year. Call 308-537-3636 to subscribe.