NowStoneham, MA- By Carol Brooks Ball, The Stoneham Sun

On a recent Tuesday morning at around 5:30 a.m., my 16-year old son was up getting ready for school. After hearing a distant beeping sound coming from the first floor of our home, he woke me and my husband up. We quickly did some investigating and found that it was the carbon monoxide detector that we’d purchased and installed just a couple of months ago.

How different our lives might be this very moment if that detector hadn’t gone off.

After flying through the house, opening doors and windows for ventilation, we made several calls to the plumber and the gas company. Within a half-hour, a Keyspan/Nat’l Grid technician showed up and examined the furnace. He solemnly informed us that due to a soot build-up in the furnace, carbon monoxide fumes were slowly being emitted. He “tagged” the furnace and turned it off, which means legally it could not be turned back on before receiving an emergency service by a furnace technician. We had to sign papers attesting to that fact. We then scrambled to reach the local man who services our furnace, and my husband waited until he showed up. The furnace was subsequently fixed.

But I’ve been contemplating the chilling scenario the technician painted for us ever since.

The carbon monoxide reading in our family room, which adjoins the furnace room, that morning was still below the 25 ppm threshold that police and fire officials use as a determinant in evacuating a home. However, the reading in the furnace room itself was well over 300 ppm. The technician said the poisonous fumes were slowly seeping through the house; by that afternoon or early evening, our upstairs carbon monoxide detector alarm would have gone off as well.

The bottom line here is that if we hadn’t had the downstairs detector in the first place, my husband, the kids, our beloved golden retriever and I would have all gone to bed that night, unaware of the deadly carbon monoxide fumes slowly building up inside our home – the place we feel safest. The fumes would have seeped through the rest of the house, unbeknownst to us as we slept, and the outcome the next morning – one week ago Wednesday, in fact – would have been very different indeed.

As a journalist, I have covered and reported on these near-miss stories. In Melrose alone, theFree Press has covered two such incidences of carbon monoxide poisoning, cases where, luckily, residents were evacuated before it was too late. Aside from being good common sense to install one or more carbon monoxide detectors, it is now the law. Earlier this year, Gov. Mitt Romney signed the so-called “Nicole’s Law” legislation, which required every residence to have a carbon monoxide detector installed by March 31 – just two weeks ago. Nicole’s Law is named for Nicole Garofolo, 7, of Plymouth, who died two years ago from carbon monoxide poisoning after drifting snow blocked a outdoor vent from her family’s gas furnace, which allowed the toxic fumes to reach fatal levels inside her home.

My husband and I paid $60+ bucks apiece for the two detectors we bought a few months ago and groused about the cost at the time.

I’d do it again now in a heartbeat. In fact, I’d buy them for everyone if I could.

After our own near-miss experience last week, I sent an email to family and friends and my co-workers, reminding them to get carbon monoxide detectors installed in their homes. Now.

I implored them to go out that afternoon or evening and fork over the money and come home and install the things – most are simply installed by being plugged into a wall outlet.

In sharing this here, I’m reminding each of you to do the same.