Searcy, AR – The perfect gift this Christmas season might be a carbon monoxide alarm.

A Searcy family would agree with that choice after they narrowly escaped

death or injury from a colorless, odorless gas that invaded their home on

North Sawmill Road Nov. 2.

“I woke up and was in the living room watching TV,” Steven Goff said. “My

wife, eight-month-old son and 13-year-old son were all still asleep.”

Goff hear the carbon monoxide alarm go off about eight o’clock and went to

see what was wrong.

“When I went and got it, it didn’t go off as much,” Goff said. “I talked to

Captain Lee Reed with the Searcy Fire Department about it and he said to

call the fire department.”

Firefighters arrived with a carbon monoxide detector of their own.

“When they came through the front door, it showed 60 parts per million

[ppm],” Goff said. “When the gas company got here, it had dropped to 45 ppm.

But then the furnace kicked on, and it shot up to 700 ppm coming out of the

vent. We had to open up all the windows and doors, and let the whole house

air out.”

Something in the heater was cracked, Goff’s wife Crystal said later, and the

furnace had to be replaced.

Reed said he can’t over-stress the importance of the detectors, and of

carbon monoxide awareness, especially since cold weather has just begun this

year and people are turning on their gas furnaces for the first time since

last spring.

“It’s very important that people have their heating units checked,” Reed,

who is the public information officer for the SFD, said. “You can have

carbon monoxide in your house and never know it until it’s too late.”

At lower levels of exposure, carbon monoxide causes mild effects often

mistaken for the flu such as headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea

and fatigue. Effects of poisoning can vary widely from person to person.

Local heat, vent and air conditioning companies are available to come check

furnaces. Test buttons on detectors allow residents to see if they are

working correctly, and batteries should be replaced according to the

manufacturer’s specifications.

Goff has strong advice for his friends and neighbors, beginning with buying

a carbon monoxide detector.

“They cost about $25 to $35, but that’s nothing to compare with your life,”

Goff said. “Then if you hear your alarm going off, call the fire department

and evacuate your house.”