Evacuation scare in school boosts awareness of carbon monoxide detectors

Posted: Dec. 5, 2012 9:42 am Updated: Dec. 26, 2012 12:15 pm


CARBON monoxide poisoning that sickened but did not seriously injure 42 students and five adults from Finch Elementary School in southwest Atlanta can be a teaching moment for the entire nation.

News video from Atlanta on Monday showed the evacuation of 500 students and the arrival of frightened parents. Many of those parents were angry the school did not have carbon monoxide detectors. A few confessed to reporters that they had no carbon monoxide detectors in their own homes -- and that is the really scary part.

People who would never condone behavior that endangers a child's life, often fail to protect those youngsters through inaction.

Safety officials remind homeowners every winter that small, inexpensive smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors save a lot of lives. According to national statistics, someone dies in a home fire about every three hours. It is no surprise that two thirds of those fatalities occur in homes without a working alarm.

The Illinois Smoke Detector Act requires all dwelling units to have functional smoke detectors within 15 feet of any sleeping area. Those who own apartment complexes and other shared dwelling units must make sure detectors are operational and placed in the appropriate areas. Tenants are responsible for making sure the detectors work and have working batteries.

Carbon monoxide detectors have a somewhat different role in home safety. They detect poisonous carbon monoxide fumes, which are odorless and colorless. These devices are strongly recommended for all homes with heat sources that rely upon a flame or have a working fireplace.

While carbon monoxide poisoning is rarer than home fires, there are heartbreaking reports every winter as entire households succumb to the deadly fumes, often as they sleep.

State laws in Maryland and Connecticut require smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in schools.

It should not take legislative action to convince school officials or parents that preserving lives is worth the relatively small investment of detectors.