Campbell CA – A Bay Area family’s close brush with what could have been a tragic case of carbon monoxide poisoning is serving as important reminder about the dangers of what is called “The Silent Killer” and the importance of life-saving carbon monoxide detectors as the weather gets colder.
A crew from a Santa Clara County fire department station in Campbell responded to an alarm Sunday night that unfortunately is heard all too often
this time of year.
A high-pitched beeping sound awakened a family of five in their home during the early hours of Sunday morning. There was neither fire nor smoke, but rather an equally deadly threat that can’t be seen or smelled. If not for an electronic detector, the Smith family might not have been woken from a fatal slumber caused by a carbon monoxide leak.
“If I hadn’t had the detector that my mother gave me when I became pregnant with my children, we wouldn’t be here,” says a relieved Suzanne Smith when KTVU spoke with her Monday. “I’m really encouraging people to get one of these for their home.”
“It was a Christmas present. We got one and Sue’s sister got one and, honestly, it probably did save our lives,” agrees her husband, Jeffrey Smith.
According to the Center For Disease Control, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning kills about 500 people a year. Winter is the dangerous time with an average of 56 deaths in December and 69 in January being blamed on carbon monoxide.
“Carbon monoxide is odorless, it’s colorless, it’s tasteless. It’s slightly lighter than air. It’s a byproduct of incomplete combustion typically [produced by] furnaces, heaters, and hot water heaters. Usually gas-producing appliances that are burning dirty,” explains Capt. Robert Kelly-Seitz of the Santa Clara County Fire Department.
In the case of the Smith family, PG&E says they had a faulty wall heater. One of the indicators to look for is if the flame is burning yellow instead of blue.
Suzanne Smith said she realizes now that she was experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday night after feeling such symptoms as nausea, headache and dizziness.
“I was drowsy and I awoke with huge stomach pains, just thinking ‘My gosh, am I sick,'” says Smith.
Suzanne and Jeffrey Smith have three reasons to be grateful for the carbon monoxide detector going off: four-and-half-year-old Montana, eight-year-old
Stormie and Montana’s twin four-and-a half-year-old sister, Bailee.
Unlike smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors are not required by law in newer homes. But fire officials think enough of them that they have them installed in fire houses.
The Smith family says this is the first time in eight years that their detector went off. They’re thankful it did.