Six saved from gas poisoning by alert dispatcher

Posted: Friday, December 13, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Six people, including three children, were rescued early Thursday morning after a 911 dispatcher realized a caller and her family were suffering carbon monoxide poisoning.

Fire officials said the six, including three children, ages 5,7 and 9, were rushed to area hospitals. All six had recovered by Thursday evening and were released.

Names of the victims and the dispatcher were not released.

Anchorage Fire Department spokesman Tom Kempton said the 911 call came in around 7:55 a.m. A woman who lived in a trailer park on Dimond Blvd. complained she and her family had come down with flu-like symptoms, he said.

The dispatcher quickly realized something wasn't right, Kempton said. ''The caller was very lethargic and disoriented,'' he said.

Instead of sending just an ambulance to the woman's aid, the dispatcher sent six vehicles, including a battalion chief and two ambulances, Kempton said.

The team arrived at the victim's home about six minutes later.

''The firefighters on location verified a very high carbon monoxide level,'' Kempton said.

Carbon monoxide, a by-product of combustion, can be lethal if inhaled for an extended period of time. It combines with an individual's hemoglobin and robs the blood of oxygen, according to fire officials.

Early symptoms of exposure include headache, fatigue, nausea and confused thinking. Without treatment, the victim will lose consciousness and possibly die.

The six individuals Thursday had early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, Kempton said. Apparently, the pilot light went out on their furnace and after they relit it, around 6:30 a.m., the house filled with a light smoky haze and everyone got headaches and became confused, prompting the 911 call.

''The dispatcher will probably be commended for her actions,'' Kempton said.

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