a peek inside the fishbowl

13 Jul, 2014

Sunday adventures with carbon monoxide detectors

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Home/reno|Misc. life|parenting

The carbon monoxide detector went off at 5:35 this (Sunday) morning. To be clear, it’s a combination smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector and it came in a pair, one of which is installed in the upstairs hallway right outside our bedrooms and the other downstairs near the front door.

My first instinct is to ignore the alarm because it’s been known to go off when we’re cooking. When the kitchen is getting too hot and it goes off, you press the button and it says “HUSH MODE ACTIVATED.” It is, indeed, a talking smoke alarm. Apparently children are more likely to wake from a deep sleep if the emergency alarm sound is accompanied with spoken words. In this case, because it’s sold in Canada, it’s a bilingual smoke alarm. (I am not even kidding.)

Mark rolled out of bed to shut it off while I rolled over and tried my best to ignore it. He pressed the button but HUSH MODE could not be activated. And it wasn’t telling us the usual “FIRE! FEU!” message either. Our alarm was telling us it was detecting carbon monoxide. A deadly gas which I will forever remember – thanks largely to public health campaigns – as “THE SILENT KILLER.”

I heard Mark yell over the blaring alarm for us to get out of bed and get out of the house. The eldest was up. I went to get the youngest and she was still sleeping. I shook her awake (!) and we went downstairs. The eldest thankfully remembered something from her childhood and was actually waiting – with dog in arms – at the front door. I grabbed Piper’s collar and told everyone to go out the back and wait on the deck instead, then I popped back in quickly to get us some blankets, and grab my iPhone. I didn’t bother closing the back door because Mark was still in the house and I wanted to get some clean air in the house.

We have a few gas appliances, and Mark went around to check them all. (Although truth be told I wasn’t sure what he was looking for. A loose hose? A hissing sound?) We couldn’t smell anything (it is “THE SILENT KILLER” after all) and nobody was dizzy or vomiting or confused. (Ok, maybe I was confused, but that happens every morning before I’ve had a chance to have a coffee and my behaviour can’t fairly be considered a side effect of carbon monoxide poisoning.)

Then we had an important question to consider: should we call the fire department? After a short debate Mark called 911 as we’ve been taught. He stressed that we were all ok and sitting outside and that it was possibly a false alarm. Within 5 minutes the fire truck pulled up (thankfully, no horns were blaring) and three firefighters inspected our house. It was over in ten minutes and we had a zero reading. Mark apologized, but they were more than ok with us having called. (Because that’s what you’re supposed to do!) Turns out we have a sensitive alarm, that’s all.

Here’s the interesting part. Opening the windows and door turned out to be a mistake, because if there WAS carbon monoxide anywhere it would have dissipated and caused an incorrect reading. So heed this! If your carbon monoxide detector is going off, all you need to do is get out of the house and call 911. And don’t bother with the windows.



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3 Responses to "Sunday adventures with carbon monoxide detectors"

1 | This is cottage living >> a peek inside the fishbowl

July 14th, 2014 at 10:34 am


[…] but we have family who does. This is how we spent most of Saturday. (Let’s not even mention what happened on Sunday morning when we attempting to sleep in/recover from a day of sunshine and utter indulgence.) […]

2 | Sarah McCormack

July 15th, 2014 at 10:28 am


about 10 yrs ago, some friends of ours were awakened by their Carbon Monoxide detector in the night. they thought the same.. probably a false alarm. but, they called 911 and when they arrived, the readings were off the chart high. then they realized why.. he had thrown his keys on the bureau before bed and somehow activated his auto car starter. their car was running in their garage, seeping fumes into the house. without the alarm, they most likely would have been found dead in their beds.

scary stuff! you did the right thing calling 911.

3 | andrea tomkins

July 15th, 2014 at 4:35 pm


Sarah, that is a scary story. Ugh. On the bright side, for us, we don’t have a garage to worry about. (One thing off the list anyway!) :)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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