Avoiding Tragedy from the “Silent Killer” – One Mom’s Story


July 10, 2016 – a day forever etched in my mind. A day that could have ended tragically for our family.

We had spent the day packing and loading up the car, finishing up all the last-minute tasks before our road trip to Atlanta, Georgia the next day. My husband was traveling there for work, and I decided to tag along with our two kids for a fun getaway. At the time our oldest daughter was three-years-old, our youngest just eight-months-old. We got the girls in bed, then we did the same. Excited for the trip ahead, but exhausted from the day, we drifted off to sleep until we were startled by an alarm.

Around 1:00 a.m., what sounded like our smoke detectors woke us up. My husband went all around the house investigating, only to realize the alarm was coming from our carbon monoxide detector that we keep plugged in an outlet in our living room. Of course it had to be a false alarm, right? It was the middle of summer, so we weren’t running the heat and we couldn’t think of anything else we were running that required gas. But after both of us fiddled with the detector for several minutes, we decided to call 9-1-1 just to be safe.

The dispatcher sent the local fire department, who approached our house nonchalantly explaining why they also believed it was likely a false alarm. But when they stepped through our front door with their carbon monoxide monitor, their facial expression and tone changed dramatically. “Is there anyone else in the house right now?” the firefighter asked. Our two little girls were still asleep upstairs, unaware of the commotion happening just below them. “Grab them and get out of this house now!” I will never forget that feeling of my heart dropping to my feet when the firefighter echoed those words, knowing something was very wrong.

According to the fire department, our house had filled with carbon monoxide. The source? Our hot water heater. We later found out it was on its last leg and started emitting carbon monoxide, so that coupled with our entire family showering that night to prepare for our trip put our home into crisis. The fire department said the level of carbon monoxide in our home would have killed us before we woke up the next morning.

We spent the next few hours getting checked by the local EMS for carbon monoxide poisoning, then sitting in our car while the fire department turned off our utilities and used industrial fans to clear the poison from our home. Watching all of this play out in front of our first home as a family, all I could do was hug the two little blessings in my arms. I was thankful we were alive and for the help of the firefighters.

For around $30 online, the little carbon monoxide detector we bought earlier that year when we moved into our home, saved our lives. Carbon monoxide is called the silent killer because it’s undetectable by humans. It’s not something you can see or smell, but it can fill your home and poison and cause tragedy within hours. Without a carbon monoxide detector, we would have gone to sleep that night and never woken up. Just the thought of that shakes this mama to her core.

I tell our story because we were some of the lucky ones, and I want our experience to show others how important it is to have carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Nowadays, newer homes have carbon monoxide detection built into their smoke detectors. But if not, you can purchase one for around $30 at your local big box or hardware store, or even online. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) suggests the detector be placed in a location close enough to your sleeping area that the alarm could wake you. They also suggest a detector on each floor if possible, which is what we did after our experience. And lastly, make sure to test your alarms regularly along with your smoke detectors.

My plea to you is that you take this article to heart and understand the importance of carbon monoxide awareness. Please don’t ignore a small action that could cost your family’s lives. My hope is that as soon as you finish reading this sentence, you go test the carbon monoxide detectors in your home or purchase one immediately!

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Tiffany Bassler
Tiffany is a small-town girl from Southwest Ohio but has called Columbus home for the past 10 years. After graduating from The Ohio State University with a Master of Social Work, she worked full-time in the community helping the underserved senior population. She married her high school sweetheart, Weston, and they decided to eventually put roots down in Lewis Center. Three kids later, this small-town girl who loves the city is learning to navigate life as a stay at home mom in the ‘burbs. She is a proud mom of two girls, a boy, and two fur babies who know how to keep life interesting! They love exploring the food scene and family activities throughout Columbus, traveling, and are currently on a journey to visit all 50 states. You can catch all their adventures and more on Instagram @bringingupbassler.