Monday, January 6, 2014

Cats and Carbon Monoxide

Photo credit to

I got home from work today, and heard what sounded like my neighbor screaming as I got out of the car, but with the -22 degree wind beating at me it was hard to make out exactly what I was hearing.  That was until I opened my front door.

I opened the front door to all of my smoke detectors screaming a chorus of shrill sounds, and immediately my heart sank.  I stopped, inhaled deeply, didn't smell any smoke and continued on.

I ran to the kitchen, checked the stove and the coffee pot, nothing there.
I peeked in the office, no fire there.
I checked the hot water heater and the furnace.  No fire there either.

Then it dawned on me.  My daughter's electric blanket that I bought her for Christmas in an attempt to be mother of the year!  I raced up the stairs expecting to find her room in flames, but no, nothing there.

With my mother of the year status still intact I went back downstairs, ran into the bathroom and called my man friend, Brent.  I explained to Brent that my smoke detectors were going off, I couldn't find a fire, and asked him how to make the chaos stop.  Brent, knower of all things manly, had no answer for me as to why this was happening, but encouraged me to call the the fire department in case the smoke detectors were also carbon monoxide detectors.

I called 911, and explained to the woman, through a chorus of 6 smoke detectors screaming and 8 howling dogs, that I had smoke detectors that were hard wired into my house and I could not figure out how to make them stop screaming.

"Miami County 911, what is your emergency?" asks the dispatcher.

"Umm, all of my smoke detectors are going off, they are hard wired into my house, and I can't get them to stop.  I don't smell any smoke and I don't see any fire, but I don't know what to do!" I exclaimed.

"I am going to dispatch the police and fire right away ma'am.  I fear that you have a carbon monoxide leak and the smoke detectors are actually dual purpose.  I want you to go to your car, and sit inside that until help arrives." she informs me.

"Seriously?!  But it's so cold outside and I just got home and I really don't want to go outside.  Plus, the cat is still alive!" I whine.


"Ma'am did you just say the cat is still alive?!"

"Yes, he's a small cat.  If there was a carbon monoxide leak, I am sure he would be dead because he is so small, so because he is alive, I must be safe." I ramble.

Smartly the 911 operator replies: "Ma'am, the cat is NOT a canary, and you are NOT stuck in a mine.  Do you know how many people tell me it can't be carbon monoxide poisoning?!"

Well, played 911 operator, well played....

As I am bundling myself up to go sit in my car with the cat, a police man knocks on the door, "I'm here for the alarm dysfunction!"

"Umm, it's not an alarm dysfunction, sir.  It's my smoke detectors.  They are all going off and I can't get them to quit!" I reply.

As the officer puts his hand jokingly on his gun, he says:  "Oh, we'll get them to stop one way or the other!"  I instantly love this man, and invite him to come inside to live with me forever.  He climbs up on a dining room chair, and quickly dismantles the first smoke alarm, then informs me the fire department is on their way and tells me they will look around my house with their fancy equipment to see if they can find a carbon monoxide leak.

The officer advises me to wait outside in my car and asks me if I'm feeling nauseous, tired or weak.  I think to myself and then yell:  "Kitty!  Kitty!  Kitty!"  The cat comes running and is clearly still alive, so I decide to wait for the firemen inside, braving the 5 screaming smoke detectors instead of the cold weather.

The firefighters arrive at the house, find no carbon monoxide, examine the smoke detector directions and can't figure out how to turn them off either.  I'm getting worried, my head hurts, and I am feeling a little nauseous from the carbon monoxide that is not leaking into my house, but since the officer mentioned the symptoms, I am sure I am dying a slow death.  Then the chief walks in the door...

"Did you boys check for red lights on any of the smoke detectors?"  he barks.

One of the fire fighters says:  "This one at the top of the stairs is red!"

The chief instructs him to change the battery in that alarm, and the house goes silent.

I stand there stupidly, in disbelief.  Did I just call the fire department out to change the batteries in my smoke detectors?!  Well yes, it would appear that I did.   I shyly mention that the alarm the police officer disconnected was red too, and the gorgeous "Made by Mattel" fireman changed the battery on that alarm also.

I learned a few things today:

-  If your smoke detectors are hard wired into your house, and the battery back up dies on 2 or more alarms, ALL of the alarms will alert.  This will go on for forever or until you change the batteries.

-  Smoke detectors that are hard wired are more sensitive than regular smoke detectors and if the temperature is less that 10 degrees outside, they pick up on the vapor/condensation in the house and will ALL alert.

-  Replace the batteries on your smoke alarm regularly because it's better to look stupid in from of a few hot firemen then to be dead.

The most important thing I learned today though?!

Cats are more resilient than canaries!



  1. I love it! Cats aren't canaries & you're not in a mine.

  2. Love it! Cats aren't canaries & you're not in a mine.

  3. Knowing that everything was going to turn out just fine let me enjoy your story as you meant for me to. Thanks for the info about the smoke detectors too!

  4. Thank you for the reminder about smoke alarms.And thanks for my first smile this morning over my coffee!phyllis