By Indiana law, all residential dwellings must have at least one functioning smoke alarm installed outside each sleeping area and on each level of the building.
The state however has no law regarding carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, even as Indiana State Fire Marshal James Greeson recommends having a CO detector in the home if any type of fuel - kerosene, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil or methane - is used for heating and/or cooking.
Currently just two states – Alaska and North Carolina – require the installation and use of both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Indiana is one of just 24 states to enact laws regarding the use of either smoke alarms or CO detectors.
Unlike smoke, CO is odorless and colorless. In small doses, it causes symptoms similar to the common cold or flu. Left undetected, CO kills without warning.
A non-irritating gas created when fuel burns incompletely, CO is the No. 1 cause of accidental poisoning in the U.S. It claims the lives of hundreds of people every year and makes thousands more ill.
In November of 2010, 22-year-old LaPorte native and Indiana University graduate Lindsey O’Brien Kesling died along with her dog Chillbe from unsafe levels of CO in an Arizona apartment. Like Indiana, Arizona does not currently mandate the installation and upkeep of CO detectors.
Together, Lindsey’s family and friends transformed their grief into something new and beautiful. Dedicated to honoring the fullness of Lindsey’s short life, the LOK Wishing Tree Foundation supports her passions - children, love, laughter and the performing arts.
“Lindsey dreamed big and lived large,” her mother Dot Kesling, Founder of the LOK Wishing Tree Foundation, said. “We are dedicated to raising CO awareness and encourage people to sign our petition at change.org urging state legislators in Indiana and Arizona to pass legislation requiring CO detectors in residential homes and other types of dwellings. Because Lindsey was so moved when she saw all the dreams and prayers on a wishing tree while visiting William Shakespeare’s hometown Stratford-upon-Avon, we planted a Wishing Tree in her hometown and use it as a symbol to signify our mission and desire to make wishes come true in the lives of young artists.”
Earlier this month, prior to kicking off the group’s first annual CO Outreach Awareness season, the LOK Wishing Tree Foundation introduced Chillbe as their official safety mascot. Children are invited to share their dreams on coloring pages during “Get Alarmed” events this fall, with completed pages laminated and added to the Wishing Tree in LaPorte.
In addition, First Alert®, the nation’s most trusted brand in home safety, is joining this year’s LOK Wishing Tree outreach effort. The company supplied the group with several hundred free CO detectors, which will be distributed at the events, plus First Alert is offering a 20 percent discount on a combination alarm or plug-in CO alarm with battery backup through November 30. When a purchase is made through the LOK Wishing Tree website or Facebook page, they will also match the first 150 with a donation to those in need.
“Our first CO Awareness event was Oct. 5 in partnership with the LaPorte Fire Department as part of their annual Fire Prevention Week Open House. No one else has joined them in regard to CO before, and we plan on joining all firehouses in cities across the state where similar events are held in the future,” Kesling explained. “We were very proud to have Indiana State Senator James Arnold join us. Not only is he the first Indiana legislator who responded to our petition, he actually signed it. We’ll be traveling around the state before ending up in Arizona on Nov. 2 for our eighth and final scheduled event this year. The first responders who received the 911 call from Lindsey’s apartment will be joining us in Scottsdale.”
While the LOK Wishing Tree Foundation is devoted to two very distinct purposes, Lindsey’s legacy is focused on keeping children – and their dreams – safe. The second CO Awareness event brought eight Bloomington firefighters plus a fire truck up close and personal with 140 Boys and Girls Club members and their families.
“Lindsey was a big sister while she was at IU,” Kesling added. “The Foundation worked closely with them to establish the Lindsey O’Brien Kesling Performing Arts Program. We offer academic scholarships for art students in the Monroe County Community School Corporation who are also members of the Boys and Girls Club. We provide them with the opportunity to see incredible professionals perform live with time to meet them and ask questions afterwards. We also sponsor theatre and performance workshops during the summer months. This program is a well-rounded representation of what Lindsey’s passions were.”
Currently, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of carbon monoxide exposure happens at home, and the majority of Americans (90 percent) are not properly protected with the recommended number of CO detectors, while nearly half (40 percent) of all residential dwellings have none. With more than two-fifths (41 percent) of CO exposure occurring during the winter months of December, January and February, now is the perfect time to raise awareness.
“Our goal is to raise awareness about CO poisoning and how to prevent it,” Kesling explained. "Losing a child for any reason breaks a parent's heart, but losing them to something that could have been prevented with a simple CO detector makes the loss so much heavier to bear."
To learn more and access a link to the petition on change.org, view the informative YouTube video by Lindsey’s brother William Kesling, starring Lindsey’s cousin Timmy Baron and filmed by Dane Kissel, go to lokwishingtree.org and/or visit the group’s Facebook page.