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“We could have died!” #CarbonMonoxide

Yet again another family escape this lethal silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO), saved by their CO alarm, caused by an oil fuelled boiler that allegedly was serviced the previous day. However, that is another matter for another time.

I spoke to the journalist of this excellent story, Adam (see reference above) who confirmed all the details, not that I doubted a single word, but experience has taught me to double-check the circumstances and events of every CO incident. I want to pay particular attention to events following the activation of the detector by the family and lets all remember, most victims will experience some level of panic in any crisis.

Here are some extracts from the report:

  • The Lovick family did not know what to do when their carbon monoxide alarm went off and are urging others to be made aware of what action to take in the event of a carbon monoxide leak.

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause death and brain damage.

  • Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service advise that if people suspect a carbon monoxide leak in their home they should open all windows, go out of the house and call 999 straight away. But Kelly Lovick (31), remained in her home at Field Dialling, near Fakenham, for approximately 30 minutes after the alarm went off.

  • During this time she made half a dozen telephone calls as she attempted to find out what she needed to do.

  • Her husband Steven (34), turned the boiler off and opened all windows. He and their children Kieran (10), Kimberley (8) and Summer (5) were out of the house within 10 minutes of the alarm going off.

It may appear the Lovick family were ignorant and never took any time to educate themselves of the dangers of CO poisoning but then why would they? Why didn’t their landlord and engineer explain to them what action to take if the CO alarm activates before this crisis? In truth, it’s all a common story that I have come to hear over and over again and continues to be repeated.

The Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service provide sensible advice in that anyone suspecting CO poisoning should immediately dial 999, and yet on most CO detectors, they display 0800 111 999. The Gas Emergency Service are ONLY responsible for natural gas or LPG installations and furthermore, their engineers are not equipped with any accurate surveying instrumentation for detecting the presence of carbon monoxide nor breathing apparatus to enter hazardous environments.

I recently challenged the CO alarm manufacturers in this regard following an incident on a boat where the alarm displayed this number, not much use in the middle of Lake Windermere or the sea! The fact is that with so many different fuel suppliers industry itself has created its own monster in ambiguity for consumers in these crisis so surely the best advice would be:

  • Dial 999 and ask for Fire & Rescue, or HM Coastguard if on a boat.

  • All CO Alarms must display the emergency number 999.

  • All landlords to advise their tenants of the dangers of CO poisoning and what action to take.

We must remember that carbon monoxide is an invisible and odourless gas, you can’t see it, smell it or taste it and less than 1% in air can and has killed in minutes. The lung capacity of children is much less than that of us adults and the first 30 minutes of exposure is critical in their chances of recovery. I have reports here where victims have been transported by Air Ambulance to a hyperbaric chamber. It’s nonsensical to waste valuable time calling engineers who themselves will eventually contact Fire & Rescue following their arrival to an incident. Fire & Rescue appliances have sirens and blue lights, engineers don’t!

Fire Fighters will carry out an immediate risk assessment upon arrival. They are equipped with breathing apparatus, have two-way radios and can contact the ambulance service, if needed; far quicker than you or I can. On a number of occasions each year, I attend the European Commission on this very subject and not once, have I received opposition to this simple advice.

Sadly, the Lovick family join the growing club of CO victims but thankfully survive to tell their story and hopefully their story will help you to protect yourself and family of what to do in a CO crisis. My special thanks goes to the Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service for not just attending, but providing GOOD sensible advice and as I always say, Fire Fighters don’t just extinguish fires, THEY SAVE LIVES.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning or your CO detector activates


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