Fitters Brad Buttweiler and Todd Smukowski recently received the Life Sustaining Award from the Midwest Energy Association (MEA) in recognition of their heroic actions on a cold night in January 2012 in the city of Milwaukee.
A gas emergency call was made by a neighbor who said she smelled natural gas at a house next door that was being renovated. Upon arriving, Smukowski found high levels of carbon monoxide coming from the flue gas. Through a window, he saw that the front cover of the furnace was propped open, and the furnace’s wiring looked to have been done by a nonprofessional. Yellow and orange colored flames were escaping from the furnace, indicating it was not operating properly.
The team discovered carbon monoxide (CO) levels at greater than 100 parts per million (PPM). [Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) allows up to 50 ppm as the eight-hour time-weighted average, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSHA) specifies a ceiling of 200 ppm as the maximum permissible exposure to CO.] Exposure at 100 ppm over time would have been fatal. Buttweiler and Smukowski shut off the gas immediately and called for the electricity to be cut off. They also noticed a light on in the kitchen and decided to call the fire department in case someone was unconscious inside. The fire department gained access using a pry bar to open the kitchen window to help ventilate the room. The firefighters and paramedics found a man unconscious on the floor. The man regained consciousness and was taken to the hospital for observation.
Buttweiler and Smukowski were recognized for their quick thinking and experience, applying exceptional training and know-how when it was needed most. They received their award at the MEA’s annual Gas Operations Technical and Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, on Aug. 2.
The Midwest Energy Association sponsors the Life Sustaining Awards program to recognize industry employees who have performed service above and beyond the call of duty by saving or attempting to save the life of another. Applicants for these awards are approved by the executive committee of MEA's board of directors.