A West Salem family’s close call and their important message for others

WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT)-  A West Salem family has a lot to celebrate this holiday season. The fact that they’re still here tops the list.

What nearly cost them their lives could happen to any of us.

The Warner family has had a lot of luck on their side recently.

“We are so lucky,” said mom Katie Warner.

“I don’t even like to use the word luck because when you flip a coin and you have a 50-50 chance you’re going to get heads, that’s luck right? This was something so much greater.”

Dad Brady said, “It was a big eye opener for us for sure.”

Like many families, the Warners are busy.

“Trying to navigate virtual school with our first grader (Liam) and we also have a neighbor girl who’s in first grade. I’m here to keep them on track and supervise and make sure they’re not getting distracted with YouTube or whatever,” said Katie.

They also own a fitness studio, have a two year old, and Brady works full-time outside the home.

“I usually get up at 4:30 to go teach at our gym,” said Brady.

One morning earlier this month, this family of four almost became no more.  Brady said, “We had a lot of guardian angels watching over us for sure.”

“As soon as I walked in the door, there was a smell more of the natural gas that I could smell, but it’s one that I’ve kind of always smelled walking into our house. This one stuck around a little bit longer.”

Katie had already been bugging Brady for several days prior to call the gas company after smelling a similar subtle gas and exhaust odor herself. But he kept putting it off. On this day though, her senses told her it shouldn’t be ignored any longer.

“She finally gave me the wife eyes, you need to call or I’m going to call.”

The gas company told them to immediately evacuate per their protocol. And not long after they got a call back.

“He says I don’t know how you guys actually made a phone call this morning based on the levels of the CO that were downstairs.”

The amount of Carbon Monoxide in their home was so toxic, they should’ve all been dead.

Katie said, “I don’t want to say you don’t go down that road, but you do, you think about it, just the gravity of the situation. You hear about these kinds of tragedies and they are earth-shattering especially imagining something happening to one of our children or all of us. I just can’t imagine how awful that would be.”

They would later learn a cracked heat exchanger in their furnace was the cause.

“It was creating this CO build-up and we had no clue,” said Brady.

The CO levels were the highest in their daughter Skyla’s bedroom.

“The kids have made it a habit to migrate to our bedroom most nights so luckily they had done that, I just can’t imagine the alternative outcome. It’s something that as a parent, I just can’t even imagine,” said Katie.

And that’s not the only piece that fell into place.

Brady said, “We turn the furnace down overnight just like I think a lot of people do and it doesn’t kick on again until 6:30 in the morning so I think that played a role into it where at 6:30, the heat kicked on and started building up a lot, at that point, I think you guys [Katie and the kids] were already up so I think we kind of escaped that route.”

Carbon Monoxide is called the silent killer for a reason. It’s colorless, odorless, and tasteless.

The Warners did have carbon monoxide detectors, but they were past their lifetime.

“Check your CO detectors if you have them, get some if you don’t.”

“One of the main messages is take the time and check, you shave nothing to lose by checking it, you have everything to lose by not checking it.”

The Warners were able to walk away with only a story to tell, and with a lot to be thankful for to end out an already tough year.

“Life is so short, it just takes one misstep or accident or tragedy to change everything and turn it on its head and I know it’s been a really hard year for many, truly, there’s been so much suffering and hardship and I think we both have a big heart for that and just keeping things in perspective, it could always be worse,” said Katie.

There’s something else the Warner’s had on their side. They have a door in their bedroom which has a draft during the winter.

Usually, they’ll put plastic over it, but they hadn’t got around to it yet.

They also have a fan and humidifier in their bedroom which they think may have kept the air circulating and the CO levels down when they were sleeping.

Also, keep in mind Carbon Monoxide alarms do not last forever. Typically, it’s anywhere from 5 to 10 years. Batteries should be replaced every six months.

Experts also say you should have your furnace checked once a year by a professional.