Bill Proposed in N.C. to Require Hotel Carbon Monoxide Detectors

North Carolina legislators are pushing for a new state bill that would require all hotels to have carbon monoxide detectors, coming in the wake of three carbon monoxide deaths that took place in the same hotel room months apart.   

On July 11, the North Carolina House of Representatives unanimously approved an amendment requiring all lodging establishments to have carbon monoxide detectors. The amendment is part of a larger bill package that has not yet been approved.

The new requirement, if fully enacted, states: “For lodging establishments, carbon monoxide detectors shall be installed in every enclosed space having a fossil-fuel burning heater, appliance or fireplace, and in any enclosed space, including a sleeping room, that shares a common wall, floor or ceiling with an enclosed space having a fossil-fuel burning heater, appliance or fireplace.”

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It requires that the detectors be powered by the building’s electrical system, but they also must have a battery backup as well. The state already requires carbon monoxide detectors in new single and multi-family homes.

Hotel Deaths Sparked Concerns

The concerns that led to the bill were sparked by three deaths in a Boone hotel room earlier this year. In April, Daryl Dean Jenkins, 73, and his wife Shirley Mae, 72, were found dead in Room 225 of the Best Western Blue Ridge Plaza. The cause of their deaths remained a mystery until an 11 year-old boy, Jeffrey Lee Williams, died in the same room in early June.

Investigators have since discovered that the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide leaking from a pool water heater located in a mechanical room directly under the hotel room they all occupied. The hotel did not have carbon monoxide detectors and had been cited earlier for deficiencies in ventilation of the mechanical room. The medical examiner who looked at the Jenkins’ bodies resigned amid allegations that the investigation into their deaths was botched and delayed.

Carbon monoxide is a significantly toxic gas that has no irritating factors that can allow someone to detect its presence.

Because people often fail to promptly recognize symptoms of carbon monoxide, it is a leading cause of fatal poisonings in the United States.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide poisoning kills about 500 people in the U.S. annually, and is linked to about 15,000 emergency room visits. In many cases, the injuries or deaths could have been prevented by the use of carbon monoxide detectors and proper maintenance of heating systems and generators.

Although many states have passed legislation requiring carbon monoxide alarms in rental properties and homes, it remains rare for hotels to have carbon monoxide alarms to alert guests and staff when there is a problem.

According to a report last year by USA Today, at least 170 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning injuries at hotels were identified between 2009 and 2012, including at least 8 deaths.

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