Carbon monoxide detectors likely will be added to school safety equipment
Before widespread installation of automated sprinklers occurs in public schools, people will probably see a less expensive device added to the school safety arsenal: carbon monoxide detectors.
CO detectors sense the lethal, colorless, odorless gas emitted by the incomplete burning of various fuels. About 170 people die in the U.S. every year from carbon monoxide produced by non-automotive consumer products, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Though not required to do so by building codes, a few local schools have installed CO detectors in classrooms and near kitchens and boilers.
A spokesperson for the state fire marshal hinted that legislation could be filed this year to make the detectors mandatory in schools.
In December, toxic levels of carbon monoxide in a Georgia elementary school led to an evacuation and sent 42 students and six adults to the hospital.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what comes out of the next legislative session coming now,” said Jennifer Mieth, the Massachusetts fire marshal’s spokesperson. “One thing you might see coming out of the Atlanta issue is requiring carbon monoxide detectors in schools.
“They’re currently not required under the building code except in certain kinds of situations, but a number of new schools are being built with them anyway,” Mieth said.
In Amherst, all the kindergarten classrooms as well as other places where students take naps have carbon monoxide detectors, said Ron Bohonowicz, director of facilities and maintenance for the schools.
Belchertown has been experimenting with the addition of carbon monoxide detectors for about a year. After a minor carbon monoxide scare in his home, Robert LaChance, Belchertown’s director of buildings and grounds, installed detectors by school boiler rooms and kitchens on a trial basis.
“I put a couple in just to see how it would go, see if we would get a lot of false alarms,” LaChance said. No false alarms occurred and the detectors seemed to be operating properly. “It worked out well,” he said.
When LaChance heard about the evacuation in Georgia, he stepped up the deployment of the CO detectors. Now they are present in each of the town’s schools.
“This is purely voluntary,” LaChance said, “though I anticipate in the coming years, it will be mandatory.”