Carbon Monoxide Concerns in School and Hotels

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Not long ago I posted on five deaths in Maryland attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning, and there have been many more news reports based on CO concerns since then. Today I have two articles to share, both of them dealing with the risks associated with what some call the “silent killer.” The first article addresses a school evacuation, where numerous students were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Most schools — like the Atlanta elementary school where at least 49 people were treated Monday for carbon monoxide poisoning — are not equipped with alarms to detect the deadly gas. Only Connecticut and Maryland have laws that require CO alarms in schools, despite the evacuations of more than 3,000 students in at least 19 incidents of high levels of CO at schools since 2007, USA TODAY has found.

School Administrators Need to be Educated!                                                                                                                    

Many school administrators say they’re unaware of the dangers. But doctors with expertise in carbon monoxide poisoning say the alarms — which the National Fire Protection Association says should be near bedrooms in every home — should be installed in classrooms or hallways. “The safest solution is CO monitoring in every classroom or, minimally in the hallways and pool areas,” says Lindell Weaver, a University of Utah professor of medicine who’s written studies on the subject and evaluated more than 1,000 patients with CO poisoning.

Why is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous?

Often called “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide (CO) is a silent, invisible byproduct of incomplete combustion, so it’s often associated with furnaces and portable heaters: here’s a link to the science of how it kills. At only medium concentration, CO can cause death in as little as 15 minutes, while much lower levels can harm pregnancies and cause long-term health issues. Death caused by CO inhalation is on the increase. In fact, the AMA (American Medical Association) names CO as the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America.

An Issue for Hotels, Too

In the second article, hotels are under the spotlight for the same reason: they don’t have a standard practice when it comes to CO detection. And that is a matter of concern for some experts in the know.

Eight people have died and at least 170 others have been treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in the past three years in hotels, which rarely are equipped with CO alarms, a USA TODAY investigation finds. And a review of state and local laws finds that few states or municipalities require hotels to be equipped with the alarms — devices that the National Fire Protection Association says should be near bedrooms in every home.

Greater Risk In Hotels

Carbon monoxide in a hotel “can harm dozens at a time,” and a hotel “has a duty to protect its guests,” says Lindell Weaver, a University of Utah professor of medicine who’s written studies on the subject and evaluated more than 1,000 patients with CO poisoning. A USA TODAY analysis of more than 1,000 news accounts of hotel incidents and interviews with local fire departments found 30 instances from 2010 through Nov. 8 [2012], of fire and other public-safety officials finding high levels of CO gas in hotels. More than 1,300 people were evacuated in the incidents.

CO Sensors in the Home: Monitored Ones are Best

Use of CO sensors in the home is more widespread, but still has a long way to go. California and New York have both passed laws mandating the use of these sensors, but enforcement has been lax. And the laws only call for CO sensors, with no requirement that they be monitored. While the cheaper “plug in” sensors are readily available, there is no substitute for a monitored carbon monoxide sensor. Just like a monitored smoke and heat sensor, a monitored CO sensor will send the alarm to the 24 hour monitoring center, which can dispatch help immediately. If you have passed out from CO poisoning, just having a loud noise is not going to save your life. A monitored system has a much better chance of making that crucial difference – by summoning help.

Today’s alarm systems are designed to monitor for much more than intrusion. There are sensors for CO, smoke and heat, water, and even low temperature. It just makes sense to add one or more of these to any monitored alarm system – and with the right alarm company, you won’t pay any extra monthly fees for the additional monitoring services. Your insurance company will appreciate it too, and may reward you with a lower premium. A full range of sensors goes hand in hand with interactive, wireless home security – the kind you find you find at FrontPoint, the leader in wireless home security, and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US. Do you have all the sensors you need to protect your family?

Comments (8)

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  1. Andrew

    Probably the main reason I got an alarm system… the CO detectors and smoke/heat detectors…. what good is a fire or CO alarm in the basement if you are asleep upstairs? (I have detectors on every floor). I was pretty sure the “standard” model battery units were never going to wake me or my family up until the threat was closer to the bedrooms. With a system like this, there is the alarm, then the base unit, and then the monitoring…

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Andrew – Thanks very much for your comment. Reminds of when we first moved to DC, and my wife demanded that I get the alarm system set up right away for fire, since our two dogs don’t dial 911 very well! Anything stolen can be replaced… we have lots of customers that feel the same way you do: not only do you get bigger discounts on your insurance, but your FrontPoint system is always working for you, 24/7. We have recommended at least one monitored smoke/heat with every system for a while, and we are also starting to do that for the CO, now that there is greater awareness of the risk of CO.

      Thanks again!

  2. Andrew

    Probably the main reason I got an alarm system… the CO detectors and smoke/heat detectors…. what good is a fire or CO alarm in the basement if you are asleep upstairs? (I have detectors on every floor). I was pretty sure the “standard” model battery units were never going to wake me or my family up until the threat was closer to the bedrooms. With a system like this, there is the alarm, then the base unit, and then the monitoring…

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Andrew – Thanks very much for your comment. Reminds of when we first moved to DC, and my wife demanded that I get the alarm system set up right away for fire, since our two dogs don’t dial 911 very well! Anything stolen can be replaced… we have lots of customers that feel the same way you do: not only do you get bigger discounts on your insurance, but your FrontPoint system is always working for you, 24/7. We have recommended at least one monitored smoke/heat with every system for a while, and we are also starting to do that for the CO, now that there is greater awareness of the risk of CO.

      Thanks again!

  3. Alan

    Unbelievable we do not have nationwide laws mandating such sensors in schools, hotels, etc… it is 2013, I mean, come on!

    Also, I think it is immoral for alarm companies to turn these life-safety monitoring service add-ons (to regular security systems) into material profit centers, when in pretty much all cases, we know it costs little to nothing to add this incremental monitoring. But then again, companies do a lot of immoral things for the sake of incremental profit (and do not worry about the outsized externalities such as people’s health, the environment, societal financial burden, etc). It is deplorable. I do not know how executives can go ahead with making these decisions and sleep soundly at night!

    But I digress. Anyway, I thank you guys for your continued moral center — it shows in all the little and big ways! This one being a rather big example.

    This coupled with you great blog posts, which not only highlight how you guys shine, but also serve as a great public service. You have had many many posts like this about CO, space heater fires/safety, solicitor safety tips, the list goes on and on.

    Keep up the great work! It always feels good to support a responsible company with great products, services, and even pricing!

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Alan – Thanks very much. It is hard to believe some of the things that are not required, but make perfect sense (and do not have to cost a lot). Since we don’t protect schools or hotels, there’s nothing in this for us – just concern about public safety. We’ll keep the posts coming, across a broad array of topics, and appreciate your reasoned (and reasonable) feedback, as always.

  4. Alan

    Unbelievable we do not have nationwide laws mandating such sensors in schools, hotels, etc… it is 2013, I mean, come on!

    Also, I think it is immoral for alarm companies to turn these life-safety monitoring service add-ons (to regular security systems) into material profit centers, when in pretty much all cases, we know it costs little to nothing to add this incremental monitoring. But then again, companies do a lot of immoral things for the sake of incremental profit (and do not worry about the outsized externalities such as people’s health, the environment, societal financial burden, etc). It is deplorable. I do not know how executives can go ahead with making these decisions and sleep soundly at night!

    But I digress. Anyway, I thank you guys for your continued moral center — it shows in all the little and big ways! This one being a rather big example.

    This coupled with you great blog posts, which not only highlight how you guys shine, but also serve as a great public service. You have had many many posts like this about CO, space heater fires/safety, solicitor safety tips, the list goes on and on.

    Keep up the great work! It always feels good to support a responsible company with great products, services, and even pricing!

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Alan – Thanks very much. It is hard to believe some of the things that are not required, but make perfect sense (and do not have to cost a lot). Since we don’t protect schools or hotels, there’s nothing in this for us – just concern about public safety. We’ll keep the posts coming, across a broad array of topics, and appreciate your reasoned (and reasonable) feedback, as always.

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