"Resolve to make your house safer and more secure this year," read the headline on a newspaper story by James and Morris Carey that ran earlier this month. As I read about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning at home, I peered over the top of my newspaper at my CO detector—still in its package—stuffed into a basket along with the new curtain rod I want to install. The same paper told how health officials had ruled CO poisoning as the cause of death for 12 miners trapped in West Virginia's Sago Mine.
CO poisoning kills hundreds of Americans each year, and also can cause long-term health problems. It's impossible to say how many lives CO detectors save. To answer other questions, the Carbon Monoxide Kills site gives all kinds of information, including advice on installing detectors for maximum benefit. If you need more encouragement to take action, check the site's discussion forum, which currently carries the sad story of a mother losing her son to CO poisoning.
Home CO detectors exemplify sensor technology at its best: They are inexpensive, effective, and simple to install (read the directions for choosing the best location, then just plug them in). Because these aren't smart sensors (look for Melanie Martella's commentary on Friday), Underwriters Laboratories says you'll need to test your detectors routinely. I've added detector testing to my routine of monthly maintenance tasks because I've determined that, despite all the reasons I can invent not to, this will make me a happier person all year long.
You read about and buy all kinds of sophisticated sensors for your business applications. Please join me now, if you haven't already, in installing a CO detector on each floor of your home--even if you're the only occupant. And then, if the alarm ever sounds, treat it seriously. Remember, you can't see, smell or taste it—but thankfully, an inexpensive sensor can.