No one recognized carbon monoxide alarm

January 13, 2009 5:34:39 PM PST
It's a silent killer that could be in your house. Carbon monoxide poisoning killed a San Francisco man and several had to be treated. There was a CO detector, but apparently no one recognized it when it went off.

Flowers sat outside the door of 78-year-old Eddy Choy-Santos' Geary Street apartment. The San Francisco Fire Department says family members found him on the floor last night, too late to save him from carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Very active, healthy. Everybody loved him in the building, he was a very sweet man," said James Viggiano, a neighbor.

Viggiano's family's 911 call was the second from that building on Monday night. Firefighters had not suspected carbon monoxide on the first call, but tested and confirmed it after the second. The building was evacuated and seven people were treated at the scene. Fire officials say the cause was faulty ventilation for the water heater.

"I was getting ready to go to sleep, to go to work tomorrow, so it's a good thing that they got people out before they went to sleep [Monday] night," said Billy Broma, a resident.

Neighbors and fire officials say there was a carbon monoxide alarm in a fourth floor unit where no one was home. It had been going off since the night before, but no one knew what it was.

"The beeping was confusing. I thought it was either another building's alarm or somebody's alarm clock that just constantly kept going off and it was getting annoying," said Viggiano.

Last month in Redwood City a family of eight was hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning. Their power had been cut off by PG&E and they were using a generator to heat their home.

Carbon monoxide alarms can be found in most hardware stores. In a San Francisco shop they run from $25 to $50.

"It's a great idea. It's a very inexpensive kind of insurance policy if you will. If any death is preventable by an alarm system, it's worth it," said Mindy Talmadge, from the San Francisco Fire Department.

Unlike smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms are not required in homes. Last year the state legislature approved a bill that would have made them mandatory, but it was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger (R) of California. He said the safety, need and reliability of carbon monoxide alarms should be reviewed, just as they were for smoke alarms, before passing such a law.

More information about carbon monoxide poisoning: click here