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CO detectors must be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Graphic illustration

Originally published: 2013-12-21 15:51:24
Last modified: 2013-12-21 15:53:29

CO alarm checks

by Anna Oakes

Staff at most hotels in the Boone area say their facilities installed carbon monoxide detectors months ago, but the Appalachian District Health Department is charged with ensuring establishments are fully compliant with North Carolina's new law.

Jennifer Greene, director of allied health services for ADHD - which provides services in Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties - said local health departments across the state now include CO detector compliance as part of their annual inspections of lodging facilities.

"If they have to have a lodging permit from us at the health department, then this would apply," Greene said. "It's a new process for us, but our staff is committed to making sure that it's done well."

Legislators inserted new requirements for CO detectors in lodging facilities into a regulatory reform bill this summer following the fatal CO poisonings of three people at Boone's Best Western hotel.

Session Law 2013-413 requires lodging establishments to install CO detectors 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 that enclosed space.

The law required either battery-operated or electrical detectors to be installed by Oct. 1 of this year; by Oct. 1, 2014, all of the detectors must be hard-wired into the facilities' electrical systems, according to the law.

Greene said that thus far, two facilities have been inspected for CO detectors but that more establishments would be up for their annual inspections early next year. In January, the health department would focus on facilities in Ashe and Alleghany, followed by Watauga County facilities, she said.

"The same staff that do restaurant inspections as well as day care inspections are also doing carbon monoxide inspections," Greene noted. The department will also conduct inspections in response to public complaints, she said.

"If we had someone call who was concerned about carbon monoxide, we would follow up on that and do an inspection," she said.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Service recently issued additional guidance on the application of the new law - including provisions that seem to conflict with each other.

"The division has received a number of inquiries regarding enforcement of this law," a Dec. 18 position statement from the DHHS Division of Public Health said.

While the law indicates that detectors are to be installed in enclosed spaces with fuel-burning appliances, it also includes a provision stating that CO detectors must be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, the Dec. 18 position statement noted. Instructions from two primary manufacturers of CO alarms indicate that detectors should not be installed in bathrooms, attics, underfloor spaces or in mechanical/furnace rooms where heating equipment is located, the statement said.

"With respect to mechanical/furnace rooms where the heating equipment is located, some appliances emit a small amount of CO, especially during startup, and may result in nuisance alarms," it said. "However, manufacturer's instructions may provide a minimum distance (usually 15 feet) away from fossil fuel-burning devices. If the minimum distance can be achieved, then the CO detector must be installed within that enclosed space."

The statement indicated that additional guidance and clarification is likely after the N.C. Building Code Council, Division of Public Health and Commission for Public Health provide a report on the effectiveness of the law in April 2014.

The law applies not only to hotels but also to "tourist homes" and "other establishments that provide lodging for pay."

Anne Peecook, co-owner of the Lovill House Inn, a Boone bed and breakfast, said CO detectors were installed in the building before the Oct. 1 effective date.

"We have followed the law. We took the situation very seriously," Peecook said. "We have had the fire department out here, and they have inspected."

The five Boone hotels managed by Appalachian Hospitality Management - including the Best Western, Sleep Inn, Country Inn & Suites, La Quinta and Super 8 - have also complied with the law, said Damon Mallatere, president.

"We put detectors in all the rooms in all the hotels, as well as the other areas required by the statute," Mallatere said.

Kyle Schultz, a front desk employee at the Boone Comfort Suites, said battery-powered detectors were installed there shortly after the Best Western incident.

"We definitely have them in all of our rooms," said Schultz.

Front desk worker Nancy Pardue confirmed that detectors had been installed at the Red Carpet Inn in Boone, as did a front desk employee at the Fairfield Inn & Suites on Blowing Rock Road.

"We're obviously doing our best to ensure that we're really implementing all of the things in this law, and I think across the state we're all learning from this," Greene said.