More states looking at requiring CO detectors in schools

SIA says recent incident at an Atlanta school highlights need
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

SILVER SPRING, Md.—A carbon monoxide leak at a school in Georgia in December sent more than 50 students and staff to the hospital—and the Security Industry Association says it also has drawn attention nationwide to the need for CO detectors in schools.

“I really think the CO incident at the Atlanta school this last December really sparked a lot of attention among the states to begin taking this issue seriously,” said Elizabeth Hunger, manager of government relations for SIA, which is based here.

She told Security Systems News that as of early March, 12 states had filed CO-related legislation, including Georgia.

It’s an issue that SIA has long taken seriously, Hunger said. “For the last several years SIA has been very engaged in this issue,” she said. “Life safety is very important to SIA and its member companies.”

SIA has been working on the issue at the federal level, but in 2013 it is making a concerted push at the state level to establish policies and funding for CO detectors in public schools, Marcus Dunn, SIA’s director of government relations, recently told SSN.

Hunger said that only two states, Connecticut and Maryland, have laws requiring CO detectors in schools.

In early February, the Atlanta City Council approved a measure requiring CO detectors to be installed in all public buildings, according to an Associated Press report. The council’s decision came two months after the odorless gas—which the Journal of the American Medical Association says is one of the leading causes of accidental poisoning deaths in this country—was found in high levels near a furnace, causing the evacuation of 500 students and the hospitalization of 44 students and 10 adults, news reports said.

Dunn said SIA has sought federal funding that states could use to obtain CO detectors.

Hunger said that effort has not yet been successful with the ongoing budget issues in Congress. “However,” she said, “at the state level I think such incentives as tax breaks or making the purchase of a CO detector an allowable expense could be attractive ways to get states on board with these programs.”

If schools use battery-operated detectors, Hunger said, they should “have a process in place to monitor the battery-operated CO detectors, which includes making sure the batteries are replaced regularly and that they’re placed where alarm annunciation can be heard.”

However, she said, “risk is definitely mitigated with a monitored approach, especially if the school is being used in off-hours. … If there’s a function going, the person who would normally respond to this during the day, such as a janitor, may not be there—and they do call carbon monoxide ‘the silent killer.’”