Thanksgiving heroes: Police, EMTs save family of 4 from CO poisoning
DUMONT — A family of four avoided a Thanksgiving calamity due to the intervention of Dumont first-responders — as all four members were suffering carbon monoxide poisoning when police arrived at their home early Thursday.
The family called for help when a 74-year-old member was suffering chest pains around midnight, said Edward Tapanes, captain of the Dumont Volunteer Ambulance Corps. When police arrived, their handheld carbon monoxide detectors — which had been donated by the ambulance corps just last year — started going off.
But the elderly resident wasn't the only one suffering — the other three family members, including a 5-year-old, were showing signs of poisoning including headaches and drowsiness.
"The thing with carbon monoxide — the victims don't usually notice it in themselves," Tapanes said. And a headache or drowsiness around midnight could easily be attributed to the end of a long day.
The family owned a detector of its own, but it was malfunctioning, Tapanes said.
"The striking part about it, had the (police department) not had the carbon monoxide detectors, and had we not had the carbon monoxide detectors — that family would have gone to sleep with the carbon monoxide in the house," he said.
Carbon monoxide levels were measured at 100 ppm — enough to trigger a headache in most people after a few hours, and to have more severe effects on the elderly and young children.
Tapanes said firefighters and EMTs were called to the home, and first-responders evacuated the family. As of mid-day Thursday, all members except the 74-year-old had been released from Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Tapanes said.
Dumont's volunteer ambulance squad purchased the detectors for its police force after hearing about a New York firefighter who rescued patrons at a McDonald's when his own detector — standard issue for the FDNY — went off.
He estimated the cost at about $100 to $150 per unit.
"What i would love to see is a countywide initiative or a statewide initiative to equip (all first-responders)," he said. "They're not that expensive, when you look at the line items on the budget."
According to the CDC, about 430 carbon monoxide deaths occur nationally every year.
New Jersey 101.5's Jeff Deminski had a close call in 2015, when a detector in his home helped save the life of his then-3-week-old son, Atticus. He and his wife evacuated their family almost immediately after their alarm started going off — but both his wife and Atticus suffered ill effects and had to be given oxygen as they recovered that day.
It’s heartbreaking to see a baby less than a month old with an oxygen mask. Even the smallest mask they had covered his entire face," Jeff wrote at the time.
"According to the CDC, more than 400 people a year in the United States die from unintentional, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning," Jeff wrote. It really can happen to anyone. If you do not have carbon monoxide detectors in your home, I beg you, get them. This little guy wouldn’t be here, perhaps none of us would, if we didn’t have them."
More from New Jersey 101.5: