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Carbon Monoxide Detectors Now Required in Washington State

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July 26, 2013
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Carbon Monoxide Detectors Now Required in Washington State

Chalk up one more state to pass a law that requires the use of carbon monoxide detectors in residential settings. I’ve posted on this topic before (when similar laws were passed in New York and California, for example). You may also have seen posts on close calls related to carbon monoxide poisoning, or even a fatality, such as the tragic incident where five people died from CO poisoning last year in Maryland. Now Washington is on board, and none too soon for that state’s residents.

A new Washington state law that went into effect Jan. 1 mandates carbon monoxide detectors in new single-family homes and all new and existing apartments and rental houses. Washington is among an increasing number of states with CO legislation. According to a new interactive CO map developed by System Sensor, which makes fire detection and notification devices, including CO detectors, 40 states had such legislation as of March.

Good News for Industry, But Delayed                                                          

Such requirements have created an uptick in demand nationwide for CO detectors, according to Doug Hoeferle, a security products senior marketing manager for System Sensor, based here. But there may be some lag time before local [alarm] dealers feel the business impact of CO laws, such as the one the Washington Legislature approved, Hoeferle said. “Typically when they implement it, it takes a while for it really to take effect—before dealers understand [the law and its ramifications], before inspectors start truly enforcing it, and in a residential sense they don’t always have an inspector that’s approving it,” he said.

Details on the Law

The new Washington law requires CO alarms in most residential buildings, according to the Seattle Fire Department’s website. Current owner-occupied single-family homes are exempt from the requirement. But if a homeowner does interior remodeling that requires a building permit, they’ll have to add a CO detector, the fire department site says. Also, if the house is sold, CO alarms have to be added before a new owner moves in, the site says.

Why is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous?

CO is often called “the silent killer.” A silent, invisible byproduct of incomplete combustion, 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.

“Monitored is The Way to Go”

While the fire department notes the alarms can be purchased at hardware and home improvement stores, Hoeferle said that “monitored is the way to go.” “If there’s a high concentration of CO, a lot of times it starves the brain for oxygen and you’re relying on a homeowner or someone to make that decision and lot of times their decision is to unplug [the alarm],” he said. “They really do misdiagnose those symptoms as the flu because it’s odorless and it’s tasteless.

You know when there’s smoke in a building, but you don’t necessarily know when there’s CO in a building.” Hoeferle continued, “We’ve heard of cases of the central station calling the home and the homeowner going, ‘I’m fine, this thing is false alarming,’ and the central station saying, ‘No sir, they don’t false alarm. You need to leave the home.’ And the next call is to the fire department and the fire department comes and measures and says, ‘Yeah, you would have been dead in 20 minutes.’”

 FrontPoint could not agree more: 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– and why we don’t charge extra for CO monitoring, the way some of our competitors do. In fact, we don’t charge extra for any of our special sensors: fire, water, low temperature. We just want you to feel protected, without feeling ripped off for that extra peace of mind.

Remember, today’s alarm systems are designed to monitor for much more than intrusion. 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?

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