At 5am this morning, our carbon monoxide alarm went off.
Emitting an intensely high pitch, pulsing alarm, the monitor next to our boiler woke us all and sent us immediately into a state of puzzlement. Not, you’ll note, a state of panic and frenzied activity, but of stupified bewilderment.
Barely conscious, I quickly toured the house, assuming it was a dead battery in a smoke alarm, before eventually deducing that it was the CO monitor.
With the alarm now silent, I once again assumed it was a dud battery. However, the instructions on the alarm stated that, for anything other than a single beep battery warning, we needed to open the windows and get out.
Recounting this to my wife, and overheard by the now awake and anxious children, the news still didn’t spark an immediate exodus.
For some reason, we still debated it. My wife announced that she didn’t have the mental capacity at 5am to get dressed, while my son – who I essentially have to bribe every day to brush his teeth – proclaimed: “I can’t go anywhere, I need to brush my teeth.”
However, after a little more faffing, we eventually exited the house, taking temporary residence in the car while I called the gas people.
Get out and stay out
In hindsight now, of course, I am ashamed of how lackadaisical we were in the early hours today. Thankfully, it was a faulty alarm and there was no leak. However, the whole incident has awakened me to how dangerous carbon monoxide can be.
Had we had a gas leak, we hopefully would have smelled it. Similarly, the acrid smell of smoke would hopefully have alerted us to a fire. But carbon monoxide is totally odourless, capable of killing its victims as they sleep. And it could have been killing us as we stupidly debated what to do this morning.
Tragically, 30 people die every year in the UK from carbon monoxide poisoning and 4,000 are hospitalised. Senseless tragedies, every one.
So, today I have purchased two new carbon monoxide alarms, one to replace the morning’s culprit, as well as one to replace the monitor that we thought was fine, but which actually had a recommended replacement date of 2019.
I will also be checking them regularly, making sure the boiler gets serviced every year and ensuring that I get my family out of the house quickly, whatever the state of their teeth, should any future middle-of-the-night dramas occur.