We have all read the tragic stories of poorly serviced gas water boilers and people dying of carbon monoxide poisoning on holiday or in rented accommodation.
If you have had a wood burning stove you we will also know that the Hetas qualified fitter will have supplied you with a Carbon Monoxide monitor and will have instructed you to keep it in the room where the stove is located
The other day at 3 am I was woken by a loud beeping coming from the kitchen, I nearly ignored it thinking that the timing clock on the cooker was going off for some reason. After a few minutes it annoyed me so much I popped on a pair of shoes and headed for the kitchen.
The timer wasn’t going off but the noise was coming from a plastic box on the ceiling which looked like a fire alarm. I thought oh bother it must be the batteries I know I will change them. As I changed them I noticed it was a carbon monoxide alarm. Any how the beeping stopped and I was about to go to bed when it started again. Okay, it's got a fault I thought, I know to be sure I will get the carbon monoxide alarm out of the lounge and put it next door to the alarm on top of a cupboard. It didn’t come on so I thought okay I am safe to go back to bed not realising that Carbon monoxide take a few minutes to activate the alarm.
Just as I was about to go to sleep the new alarm went off. I swore as I realised what an idiot I had been. I checked the controls on our new boiler in the bathroom cupboard, which is above the kitchen and found that the flame had been going out. I then opened the windows and checked that my sons sleeping in the bedrooms next to the bathroom were alive.
Once the house was ventilating and the alarm stopped I relaxed, I thought this has been serous I wonder what’s being going on. Finding the number for the gas emergency helpline which is open 24 hours a day I called the number 0800 111 999
In less than an hour Geoff, a gas safety engineer had arrived. We identified that some plastic sheeting moved by the wind had obstructed the boiler vent and prevented it working correctly and carbon monoxide had entered the house.
Geoff told me he had to cut off the gas to the boiler and it was really important that it wasn’t used again until the problem had been made safe and a gas safe engineer had checked the boiler for sooting up which could prevent it working correctly.
Afterwards he told me that if I hadn't allowed him to disconnect the gas to the boiler he would have called a works team that would have disconnected the gas supply to the house as the situation was that serious.
So that we were also kept warm he left a small electric fan heater for our use. I was so glad Geoff had come, not only did he make sure we were safe from the life threatening danger of the Carbon Monoxide gas which had very nearly killed the whole family he was reassuring and made sure we understood what we needed to do next.
What was also good to hear was that because of the seriousness of carbon monoxide Geoff would have come out even if our home was heated by oil or solid fuels.
What had been so frightening about the situation is that at 3am in the morning I was not thinking straight and I had doubted what that little plastic box on the kitchen ceiling, was trying to tell me.
The only reason in fact that it was there is that it remained from the days of the old gas boiler which had been mounted on the kitchen wall and removed earlier in the year.
So what did we do next?
First of all I started to realise what a near miss it had been and gave thanks for being alive. When someone said good afternoon to me in a petrol station it really hit home, it was indeed a good afternoon, my two sons and I were alive and when my wife returning from Scotland later that day found us all alive and well hadn’t opened the door to find the rest of her family dead in bed.
The next priority was to make sure the problem of the blocked flue wasn’t going to happen again and the boiler engineer was called to make sure the boiler was safe to use and to reconnect the gas.
After this I went to Screw Fix and bought four additional carbon monoxide alarms. One of which I placed next to the boiler and the other three in each of our bedrooms. At the same time I also purchased additional fire alarms for each room in the house.
Then my wife and I looked up at the grubby little plastic box on our kitchen ceiling and realised that it had saved our lives so we renamed it “Saviour”
Finally I think the big lesson out of all this is even if you live in a modern house and you have gas, oil or solid fuel heating, make sure you have a carbon monoxide alarm and check the batteries. They only cost a few pounds and could save your life just as “Saviour” saved ours.
If you have a gas emergency or a carbon monoxide alarm goes off, get people out of the house call the emergency number on 0800 111 999 as Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless and silent killer.
For more information about Carbon Monoxide Click HERE