CO alarm saves family hours after battery change

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

MOORESVILLE, N.C.—A family here had been sick for days when, on a whim, the father of the family looked at his home’s carbon monoxide detector. The battery had been installed backward, so Ted Freshwater changed it, went to sleep and was awoken hours later by a shrill alarm.

CO had been poisoning the Freshwater family, and the alarm alerted the family to the presence of the toxic gas their furnace had been emitting, according to a story in the Charlotte Observer. “A matter of a couple dollars in batteries could have cost my family their lives,” Freshwater said.

Gary Styers, Mooresville fire marshal, said the town sees an increase in the gas-related calls during the winter as residents heat their homes. “Obviously there’s no odor, no color,” Styers said. “There’s no way of knowing carbon monoxide is in the home unless you have a detector.”

Family members were taken to the hospital and later released. All had suffered headaches and dizziness, and two of the Freshwaters’ young children had vomited, according to the story. Other symptoms of CO poisoning include nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, confusion, lack of coordination and loss of consciousness.

Last year, three people died in a two-month period in a Boone, N.C. hotel room when CO leaked up from an improperly ventilated pool heater. It wasn’t until after the third death—of an 11-year-old boy—that officials discovered CO had killed the guests. The North Carolina subsequently passed legislation mandating CO detectors in certain hotel rooms.