CO scare shows importance of clearing vents

A very dangerous scene at a senior nursing home on Grand Island serves as an important reminder to keep your vents clear of snow.

Carbon monoxide levels in the basement boiler room were up to 350. Anything over 35 is considered excessive. It’s a very good thing the Elderwood Senior Care facility is equipped with carbon monoxide detectors.

Director of Maintenance Jerry Clark got a call Saturday night that the carbon monoxide alarms were sounding, so he rushed to the office to help firefighters solve the problem.

“I take care of my senior residents here. I’m not that far behind them. All I want to give them is the best,” Clark said.

It turns out the vent grates that bring air into the boiler room were covered. A huge pile of snow was plowed right on top of it, and strong wind blew snow onto the only part of the vent still exposed.

“I went around there and saw the big snow drift on top of it. I grabbed my shovel and once I cleaned it out, the CO levels dropped almost immediately,” Clark said.

Fire officials say if Elderwood didn’t have those carbon monoxide detectors, it could have been a deadly situation.

“It could have caused fatalities in the end result,” said Ray Pauley from the Grand Island Fire Company.

Senior residents didn’t even need to evacuate. They were safe in the dining area through the whole ordeal.

“They had supper like they normally would and watched the firemen go back and forth, and that’s all there really was to it,” said Colleen Krauss, administrator of Elderwood in Grand Island.

The scary situation was quickly defused and is a lesson for others to take home.

“Be aware of your venting and venting situation down in your boiler rooms and basements. With the storms we have up here in Buffalo, sometimes they come up very quick. So make sure those outside vents that supply air to the building are wide open and clear,” Clark said.

This is a problem that can affect any building heated with a boiler. It needs to bring air in, to create circulation when that boiler is running.

Elderwood staff are now making sure the snow will be piled in a different location and they will check the vent before storms. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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