During my time at university, I have put the emergency services provided by the good men and women of Yorkshire to test many a time. This is partially due to a certain penchant for drama (shocking I know), but also due to the fatalistic attitude that develops amongst children of the 9/11 generation. “I’d always imagine I’d die in a terrorist attack,” my brother commented cheerily. “Me too!” I replied, to the horror of my parents one rainy afternoon during Sunday lunch.
Those close to me will recall the blue hand incident of 2009. To paraphrase, I disrupted a two hour seminar, caused chaos in The Courtyard and was almost carted off in an ambulance after my hand turned blue. What did it look like? Well, a blue hand. NHS Direct helpfully informed me it was likely that I was having a ‘serious cardiac incident’ and should go to A&E immediately.
Oh but NOUSE blood runs deep in my veins: this was a production week. Never one to subvert protocol, I informed then Editor, Charlotte Hogarth-Jones, who mentioned it was probably the dye on my new jeans. Imagine explaining that to the overzealous nurse on the phone keen on evacuation. I’m not dying, madam, just a bit dim.
Despite this being a central part of the hilarious (and mocking) 21st speech given by my best friend, I knew that one day my time would come. And it did.
After a particularly arduous week, my housemates and I retired to bed only to be woken in the middle of the night by an odd sounding alarm. Detective specs on, we investigated the causes, namely carbon monoxide.
What to do? Open the windows and start calling people. Sinclair’s emergency told us to go back to bed. The non-urgent Police advised us to contact the fire brigade. The fire brigade dispatched two fire engines, and an ambulance despite being repeatedly told that THIS WAS NOT AN EMERGENCY. Try explaining that to the neighbours.
My personal favorite, the British Gas man, explained it was probably nothing but he was going to turn off our gas anyway. After a brief debate involving poisoning vs. hair washing the next day, we agreed. We didn’t have to defend ourselves to him, he commented, but two fire engines really were a bit much. Crisis averted, we retired to bed feeling extraordinarily sheepish.
The next morning, a boiler technician was dispatched. He informed us the gap around the gas flume likely caused carbon monoxide to be blown back through the hole and into our bathroom, setting off the alarm.
Our persistence, possibly contrary to the firemen’s opinion, was not due to female hysteria. My mother’s friend died of carbon monoxide poisoning on a year abroad in Germany. The only reason my mother survived was because of a cracked window in her room.
And so, the moral of the story, boys and girls, is to always be vigilant about alarms. It sounds obvious but it’s much easier to go back to bed and hope for the best rather than get down and dirty with the professionals (ooh ah).
Carbon monoxide is colourless, scentless and impossible to detect without special equipment. It causes you to float away in your sleep making all that work you did for your A-levels, modules and societies completely wasted.
More worryingly, at least a handful of those I told about the story don’t have carbon monoxide detectors in their houses. Some don’t have fire alarms. Landlords are bound by law to provide these and it’s worth investigating immediately. If you suspect something is wrong, call people until you’re confident it’s resolved. It just might save your life.