Seattle man credits carbon monoxide detector for saving his life

SEATTLE -- The view outside his West Seattle home has kept Steve Quant living there for 25 years. It was something he couldn't see, however, that almost took it all away.

"It's really, really, really loud. It scared the you-know-what out of me," Quant said, standing in his kitchen Wednesday. "It was crazy."

The beeping woke him up in the middle of the night; a dead sleep that became a moment that saved his life.

"It was 3, 4 o'clock in the morning, and just out of a hard sleep I was awoken by this ear-piercing scream," he said. "It is deafening."

The noise was coming from his mother's Christmas gift -- a "clunker" as he described it -- which he unwrapped, installed, and forgot about.

"Several months later in the middle of the night it started screaming," he said.

The high-pitched, high-decibel noise was coming from a carbon monoxide detector in his kitchen, which had detected dangerous levels of the odorless, colorless gas. Quant opened all the windows and doors to his home, and later discovered his furnace had malfunctioned, sending the poisonous gas into his home.

"It was clogged, so instead of coming out the chimney, it was actually being pumped right into the house," Quant said.

Starting next week, carbon monoxide detectors -- like the one Quant believes saved his life -- won't just be a luxury; they'll be the law. All apartments, condos, hotels and homes in Washington State are required to have them as of January 1, with the only exception being single-family residences, owner-occupied before July 26, 2009. (Those are not required to have CO alarms until they are sold, said state building officials.)

"It's serious. It will make someone very sick and it will lead to death. We want people to take this seriously," said Bill Mace, outreach and education coordinator for the Seattle Fire Department. "It's known as 'the silent killer' or 'the quiet killer' because it's odorless. You can't see it, smell it."

The state hopes to save lives and prevent what happened following devastating storms across the region in December 2006. Carbon monoxide poisoning killed eight people who were cooking inside or trying to stay warm during the storms.

The detectors -- which start around $20 -- can be purchased at hardware stores or online. The Seattle Fire Department has a limited number it will install for seniors, low-income families, or people with disabilities, Mace added.

Quant said he is so thankful for his detector that he bought others for family and friends.

"Everyone should put one in their house," he said. "It literally saved my life and I want to save theirs."

To find out more information about free detectors for seniors, low-income families, and residents with disabilities in Seattle, contact the Seattle Fire Department at 206-386-1337.