A Pratt family got a scare but thankful for quick response of fire department, and hope others will note to check carbon monoxide expiration dates.
Marilyn Stevens had just taken Christmas Eve dinner out of the oven for her family at 921 Lawrence in Pratt on December 24 when a strange beeping noise coming from the back bedroom caught her attention. It was a carbon monoxide detector.
"I heard that buzzer and just panicked," Stevens said. "I called 911 right away."
Stevens did exactly what Pratt City Fire Chief David Kramer said she should have done.
"We always want people to call in, no matter what time, what day or even if they don't know what the problem is," Kramer said. "It is always better to be safe than sorry. We would always rather have people call so we can check it out and it be nothing, than ignore it and have it be something."
In Steven's case, that beeping from the back bedroom was eerily similar to a noise she dealt with about six months ago, when her gas oven developed a leak and set off a carbon monoxide detector in her home.
"When we had this problem a few months ago, the fire department came out then and cleared the home," she said. "They determined the problem and disconnected my oven. I had to go without an oven for a few days, while I got a plumber to fix the coupling, but I'm glad we were all safe."
Stevens recently had the fire department install new duo smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the home, so she was very worried when she heard that similar noise again on Christmas Eve.
"Last time it was a long beep that just kept going," she said. "This time it was a little different in that it beeped twice, then shut off, then beeped twice and shut off."
Along with family members Dusty Moore, daughter Kristina, and grandson Robert (2-years-old), Stevens cleared the house after calling 911 as instructed, leaving behind the beirrocks she had just taken out of the oven.
Firefighter response took less than 5 minutes, with some city firefighters arriving in church clothes as they had been on their way to Christmas Eve services.
"They got here fast, and brought out the whole brigade," Stevens said. "I was very thankful to find out this time it was an old carbon monoxide detector that malfunctioned. I didn't know those things had an expiration date. It had been installed in 2015 and we didn't remove it when we installed new detectors just this past year."
According to Chief Kramer, a statewide push to get carbon monoxide detectors into all residential homes took place in 2014 and 2015. Many of those detectors have now aged out and are expired or malfunctioning. This could explain why there have been a plethora of carbon monoxide call-outs in the city limits of Pratt in the past year.
"By the numbers we have had six or seven calls for carbon monoxide detectors just this last year in Pratt, when prior to that we only had four or five in the past 10 years," Kramer said.
He said it would be a good New Year's resolution for all to check their carbon monoxide detectors for an expiration date on the back, since they have an average lifespan of only four or five years.
"It can be confusing since smoke detectors last a lot longer than carbon monoxide detectors and people just don't realize that," Kramer said. "But we have had some serious carbon monoxide cases this past year in Pratt so it is very important to pay attention to those buzzers if they go off, and to check the detectors to make sure they are still functioning properly."
Kramer said the City of Pratt Fire Department had more than 30 individuals request help with installation of new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the past month, with awareness raised at a recent 100th service anniversary. Still, there is a difference between life spans on smoke and carbon detectors that should be noted, and the department is always willing to help out, providing free replacements and installations. Kramer said the department now installs a combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector, replaced older single-use carbon monoxide detectors.
Stevens said her advice to others was similar to what she followed on Christmas Eve.
"If you hear that beep, call 911 and get out of the house, otherwise it might be too late. You never know," she said. "Always better to be safe than sorry."