Kenai Fire Marshal Tom Carver tells everyone he teaches to service their boilers and alarms regularly, so it was a loud wake-up call when his carbon monoxide detector went off in the middle of the night last week.
Carver said it took him a while to realize what was happening when the sound of the detector went off around 1 a.m. Dec. 15.
“The kids and I were all asleep in bed and I woke up to one of my alarms going off, and in my sleepy haze I first reached for my alarm clock,” he said. “I was thinking that … it was a false alarm.”
When Carver checked the detector and saw a reading of 200 parts per million, he said he knew the problem was legitimate and began venting his house by opening the doors. Any reading over 35 parts per million can be dangerous, he said.
Carver said he knew the high levels of carbon monoxide were coming from his boiler but he stayed up all night venting the house and none of his family was affected.
“As far as I’m concerned, that detector saved us,” he said.
Yet Carver was still shaken that it had happened at all. He said he reminds others to get their boilers serviced and change the batteries on their detectors every chance he gets.
“I know boilers are supposed to be serviced every year,” Carver said.
“To be honest, I don’t know anybody who does that… I’m just as guilty as anyone else, and we could have paid the price for that.”
Carver and other first responders said batteries for smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be changed twice a year.
Nikiski Fire Public Information Officer Bud Sexton and Central Emergency Services Firefighter Jacob Ohms said it is helpful to change the batteries every time clocks need to be reset.
“We see (carbon monoxide) detectors going off throughout the year,” Sexton said. “We just try to remind people periodically to do it. You know, at least twice a year.”
Ohms said most of the calls CES responds to for carbon monoxide are false alarms, but that calling 911 when an detector goes off is always a good idea.
“We have special detectors that can detect (carbon monoxide), so just to be on the safe side is to evacuate the building and then have us come out,” Ohms said.
The chances of high carbon monoxide levels can go up slightly during winter months because boilers and heating systems are being used more often.
The symptoms of being exposed to the gas include headaches, nausea or redness in the face, Ohms said.
Another home hazard to be wary of in winter is a dirty chimney, which increases the likelihood of a chimney fire. The Kenai Fire Department, CES and the Nikiski Fire Department all offer chimney brushes the public can borrow and use at home. Carver said it’s important to measure the inside diameter of a chimney’s smoke stack before signing any equipment out.
Reach Megan Pacer at email@example.com.