The pager went off awaking us from a late night winter’s sleep telling us to respond to a strange sounding call at a large home near Telluride. The caller had been talking to the on-call doctor at the medical clinic stating that he was not feeling well and that he could not wake up his wife or children..then the line went dead.

My wife Jill, a paramedic, and I drove to the house to meet the ambulance crew and fire department on scene. Reportedly the family were visiting relatives in the home and were staying in an bedroom over the garage. The relatives sound asleep in another part of the house were surprised when they were awakened by pounding on their front door by the ambulance crew. The crew quickly entered the bedroom above the garage and found the caller, his wife and three children unconscious. In the closed garage below the bedroom an SUV was found idling.

The entire family had been overcome by carbon monoxide. The SUV had been started by one of the relatives early in the evening with the intention of running a short errand but had returned into the house to retrieve something and then was convinced to not go. The idling car was forgotten.

The poisoned family was airlifted to a hospital with a hyperbaric chamber and they all recovered. The outcome would not have been so fortunate if the father of the family had not woken up and realized something was wrong in the moments before he passed out.
Most of the carbon monoxide cases are caused by faulty gas furnaces or poor venting of the exhaust from the furnace. However as in this case carbon monoxide can come from a number of different sources. Carbon monoxide does not smell or look like exhaust, it is an odorless and colorless gas.

People call me wanting advice on “burglary alarms” to protect their home when they are away. I can understand the desire to protect a home and valuables from theft and I strongly recommend burglary alarms. However, before you do anything regarding the protection of your property make certain that the occupants of your home are protected by modern, inspected and functioning carbon monoxide, gas and smoke detectors. Alarm companies can install safety systems that work together with your burglary, low temperature, water flow sensors etc that will instruct dispatchers to call fire departments and ambulance crews in case occupants are overcome by smoke or carbon monoxide. These systems also check themselves daily to make certain all sensors are working properly. Local hardware stores sell stand alone battery operated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors but they only send out a tone alert. The fire department can advise you on what type of system might be best for your situation.

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