Advocating for Carbon Monoxide Detection in Oregon

Advocating for Carbon Monoxide Detection in Oregon

This piece was originally published in the May 2017 issue of electroindustry.

Jonathan Stewart, Manager, Government Relations

Illustration by Bill Green

NEMA’s Fire, Life Safety, Security, and Emergency Communications Section engages in state-level advocacy each year to promote the adoption of life and fire safety requirements. A current example is underway in Oregon, where the section has retained a lobbyist to advocate for two legislative priorities: carbon monoxide (CO) detection in K-12 schools and CO detection in commercial buildings and restaurants.

Almost every state has laws requiring CO detection in one- and two-family detached homes. But children spend six to eight hours a day at school, where they should be protected from the risk of CO poisoning as well.

Schools often have more than one source of CO (e.g., gas furnace, water heater, or gas stove). Even Bunsen burners in science labs emit CO. Requiring CO detection in schools is a commonsense approach to life safety. The 2015 edition of the International Building Code requires CO detection in new schools, but adoption still leaves a major gap with existing schools.

Adults, meanwhile, spend most of their time outside the home in commercial buildings and restaurants. Like schools, they frequently contain CO-emitting devices. But unlike schools, there are no code requirements for CO detection in these occupancies—not even in new construction.

The need for detection devices made national news in early 2014 when a restaurant manager was found dead due to prolonged exposure. If NEMA is successful, our efforts will go a long way toward preventing any such tragedy from occurring in an Oregon restaurant.

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