Story by Staff Sgt. Bria Hughes
8th Air Force Public Affairs
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. — Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and lethal gas that claims the lives of more than 430 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fortunately, there are ways to keep the toxins at bay and prevent CO poisoning from coming inside your home.
One way to stay a step ahead of this potential threat is by proactively researching and identifying safety hazards, then taking swift action to mitigate any risks. The Eighth Air Force Safety office is responsible for creating monthly “Safety Grams” to help educate the force on timely topics such as fire hazards, hurricanes, and general home safety.
Last January, a safety gram was posted around the Eighth Air Force headquarters building concerning the topic of carbon monoxide dangers and quickly caught the attention of Capt. Lindsay Cordero, Air Force Global Strike Command acquisitions branch chief.
“What stuck out to me the most was the wording and all the information it included about how dangerous and fatal carbon monoxide can be,” Cordero explained.
When Cordero’s husband, Maj. Daniel Dreier, a 2nd Operations Support Squadron B-52 evaluator pilot returned home to Barksdale from a deployment, the couple decided they needed to make the investment and buy carbon monoxide detectors for their home.
“You want to have a safety plan in place for your family before it’s too late,” Dreier said. “So you don’t wake up in the middle of the night not knowing what to do.”
After researching many different types of CO detectors, the couple ultimately decided to buy six alarms and self-install them in almost every room of their house.
Fast-forward to a few months later, Cordero and Dreier came home from dinner one night to find a strange noise coming from their water heater.
“The water heater was making a slightly louder noise, but we thought it was normal and figured it would stop soon,” Dreier said.
The couple headed off to bed but were abruptly awakened in the middle of the night by another loud noise — the carbon monoxide alarm.
“It was just the alarm in the master bedroom going off, so we thought it was possibly a malfunction or just needed to be reset,” Cordero said.
They reset the alarm and went back to sleep, however, no less than an hour later the alarm started going off again. This time, the couple knew there was something more serious happening.
“While the alarm was beeping for the second time, I started to feel super drowsy and had trouble waking up,” Cordero said. “We found out later that my drowsiness was due to the amount of carbon monoxide that was already present in our bedroom.”
Carbon monoxide essentially replaces oxygen and can slowly suffocate a person unknowingly, and even small doses of the gas can cause permanent damage or death to a person.
With their fur baby in tow, Cordero and Dreier vacated their house and immediately called 911 for help.
“When the firefighters arrived and assessed our house with the detector, they found excessively high parts per million (PPM) of CO levels in our master bedroom,” Cordero said.
One to eight PPM is the normal range for carbon monoxide and anything above eight PPM is where people can start experiencing flu-like symptoms and extreme drowsiness.
Cordero and Dreier eventually found out that the cause of the high CO levels was due to a broken exhaust vent attached to their water heater, resulting in a gas leak.
“Our master bedroom is the closest room to where the water heater sits,” Dreier explained. “So in order to get the toxins out of our bedroom and the house, we had to open up the doors and windows so the bad air could circulate out.”
The couple waited outside of their house in the middle of the night with their cat until they were advised by the local fire department that it was safe to go back inside and go to sleep.
“We woke up the next morning feeling very grateful to be alive,” said Cordero. “Based on the levels of CO in our home we could have gone to sleep and never woken up.”
Cordero shared her and her husband’s life-changing experience via her personal social media page, and says her new idea of a housewarming gift for family and friends would be a carbon monoxide detector.
“Deciding to invest $80 into getting detectors for our home really saved our lives that night,” Cordero explains. “It just goes to show that taking a simple precaution can save your life and the life of your loved ones.”