• Nikki James Zellner

The alarm was chirpin'

Updated: May 1

I had an opportunity recently to spend some time with a fine group of firefighters in Hampton Roads.

When I asked, "so how do most of your carbon monoxide calls – or what turns out to be a CO call – come in?"

The answer was almost in unison:

"They'll call up and say, 'the alarm was chirping.'

As folks have been exposed to the 'residential only' terminology of carbon monoxide – they immediately associated carbon monoxide detection with a 'chirping' alert of a small plug in or battery operated detector.

They might not be experiencing symptoms yet, but a little box is telling them they need to check on something.

And so they call 911 or the fire department, and they're told to move into fresh air until help arrives. But because of the detector's responsiveness, they were spared long-lasting health issues and even death – and instead may have only experienced a slight headache, nausea, or any number of small, dismissible symptoms.

But what about a school property?

"We haven't been called to any," they said.

And this is the rub.

Many people assume that because there aren't responses to school properties for CO – that there is no CO exposure occuring.

And that's where we're wrong.

There is no response – because there is no 'chirp.'

No alert to occupants, no alert to administrators, no alert to emergency responders.

And, in 43 of the 50 U.S. states, it's time for that to change.

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