Carbon monoxide detectors may have saved Waterloo family of four

Jari Engle looks at one of the two carbon monoxide detectors in her home.
Jari Engle looks at one of the two carbon monoxide detectors in her home.(KCRG)
Published: Nov. 30, 2015 at 4:45 PM CST
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A Waterloo family is grateful after a close call this weekend.

They're grateful they had a working carbon monoxide detector installed in their rental home.

Saturday night, two carbon monoxide alarms went off in the home of Jari Engle at 1732 Mulberry Street in Waterloo.

At first, all four members of the family inside just thought it was failing batteries.

But when the alarm wouldn’t quit, they called 9-1-1 and it’s a good thing they did.

Test meters for the odorless, colorless and deadly gas measure carbon monoxide in parts per million.

Anything under 10 ppm is considered normal indoor air.

The Waterloo Fire Department meters averaged 74 ppm inside the Engle home so the first thing firefighters did was to tell the family to get out.

Jari Engle said the culprit was a rusted exhaust pipe on the furnace. Saturday night, she had a splitting headache and figured it was just a migraine.

Then the two carbon monoxide detectors started shrieking.

“They saved our lives. If it wasn’t for them, the CO detectors, we’d probably be dead to be honest,” Engle said.

Engle’s mother Donna Rasmussen said firefighters told the family that it was an extremely close call.

“They told us we could have both been dead by morning,” Rasmussen said.

Pat Treloar, Waterloo Fire Chief, said his department typically responds to about 25 carbon monoxide alarm calls a year.

But that’s dwarfed by the hundreds of smoke detector alarm calls that come in every year.

Treloar said sometimes people pay so much attention to smoke detectors they forget carbon monoxide alarms play an important role in home safety too.

Treloar said homeowners are not required to install carbon monoxide detectors.

But a rule change last January made both smoke and carbon monoxide alarms a requirement in rental housing.

In this case, it’s a ruled that potentially saved four lives on Saturday.

“It’s just as important, if not, more important, than a smoke detector. I say that because we can, if awake, sense or smell smoke. We cannot sense or smell carbon monoxide,” Treloar said.

Engle said the family received Red Cross assistance for two nights in a local motel while the home was aired out and the furnace exhaust pipe fixed.

The family returned home Monday morning after one last check to make sure the high levels of carbon monoxide inside were gone.