The 2011 Revised Code of Washington (RCW 19.27.530) will require that carbon monoxide (CO) alarm devices be installed in nearly all existing buildings classified as residential occupancies.
At that time, all residential buildings state-wide, including single-family housing and apartments, as well as hotels and motels, must be equipped with the proper number of CO alarms. The January deadline is of particular importance, as more CO deaths occur during the winter months than any other time of year, due in part to increased use of fuel-burning sources to heat homes, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
“Carbon monoxide is a poisonous – and potentially fatal – gas that can only be detected by specially designed sensing devices,” said Deborah Hanson, director of external affairs for First Alert. “The new legislation will help put an end to the tragic incidents that occur each year as a result of undetected carbon monoxide.”
Known as the “silent killer,” CO poisoning is the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the United States — responsible for an average of 450 deaths and more than 20,000 emergency room visits each year. CO poisoning is notoriously difficult to diagnose — often until it’s too late.
The symptoms mimic those of many other illnesses and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and vomiting. In more severe poisoning cases, people may experience disorientation or unconsciousness, or suffer long-term neurological disabilities, cardiorespiratory failure or death.
Under the new law, CO alarms must be located outside of each separate sleeping area, in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom.
However, safety experts, like the NFPA, recommend that CO alarms also be installed on each level of the home, including the basement.
Local building code officials will verify compliance with the law when approving permit requests for new construction and most alterations, repairs or additions to dwellings.
The NFPA also recommends replacing alarms once they reach the end of the manufacturer’s suggested useful life or expiration date — an average of five to seven years.
For building owners who already have alarms but may not know their age or condition, this new legislation serves as a reminder to update their properties accordingly.
“The 2011 Revised Code of Washington is a vital step in bringing strengthened CO protection to consumers state-wide,” Hanson added. “But installing CO alarms is only half of the story — conducting ongoing alarm maintenance, including replacing expired alarms and checking batteries, is necessary to maintain a home’s level of protection.”
CO sources may include, but are not limited to, heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances or cooking sources using coal, wood, petroleum products or other fuels emitting CO as a by-product of combustion. Attached garages with doors, ductwork or ventilation shafts connected to a living space also are sources of CO.
For more details on Washington’s CO alarm requirements, as well as how to detect and what to do in case of CO poisoning, visit the Washington State Department of Health website, at http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/HomeSafety/Contaminants/CarbonMonoxide.aspx.