CO Detector Saves Ohio State University Students

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Imagine going to bed for a good night's sleep and not waking up again.  When it comes to Carbon monoxide, that scenario is a real danger.

An Ohio State University student says a tiny appliance kept her from dying.

OSU third-year student Jackie Serpico relaxes by playing piano.  She can relax these days because of a tattle-tale on her wall, a carbon monoxide detector. A year ago, she and two friends had moved into a different apartment. One of the girls had brought along her CO detector.

"My dad was 'Good, one of your roommates brought one.' And then I just didn't really think about it again," Jackie said.

She was abruptly reminded of it a few months later at 2 a.m.  Two girls, including Jackie, were asleep.  A third was studying when the detector went off.

That roommate checked to make sure it wasn't a false alarm from a dead battery, and then woke the others, including Jackie.  Jackie said it was hard to get up, but her friend forced her outside and called 911.  Firemen found a broken furnace and Carbon monoxide.

"They said it was at lethal levels of Carbon monoxide in our house, so if we had stayed in the house all night then we all could have died," Jackie said.

Her close call really sank in later that morning.

"I could have just not woken up today, and that was just terrifying," she said.

The Ohio Department of Health says on its website that 500 Americans die of CO poisoning each year.  Last December, a Bexley woman lost her life.  Earlier this week, firemen rescued people from an apartment building thick with carbon monoxide.  

Worthington fire Captain Jay Arnholt said it's a silent killer.

"Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and you can't see it."

Captain Arnholt said the gas often escapes from a bad water heater or furnace.  He recommended a yearly furnace check, but that's not enough.

"Because heat exchangers can crack and you can have a problem with your fuel-fired appliances," he explained.

So the captain suggested putting a CO detector by the bedrooms.  One per floor is even better, he said.   And if the alarm does go off don't open windows...get out...and call 911.

"It is helpful to leave your windows and doors closed, and not ventilate prior to our arrival. Because if there is something present, we, it will be easier for us to find that," he said.

Jackie knows not to play around when it comes to safety.  She shared her story with friends so they will know the dangers of carbon monoxide.

"You think that everything will be fine, but maybe it's not fine. And you could die," she said.

The captain said that carbon monoxide also can come from problems with fireplaces, space heaters that run on kerosene, and generators.

He recommended backing the car out of the garage all the way before you warm it up, so fumes won't blow back into the house.

Currently, Ohio has no law requiring apartments to have CO detectors.