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Feb 6, 2012- Bill to Mandate Wider Carbon Monoxide Detector Use Introduced in W.Va. House

By: Michael Hyland
By: Michael Hyland

Del. Tiffany Lawrence is the lead sponsor on a bill to mandate CO detectors be used in hotels and many other places.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Changes could be coming in response to the tragedy at the Holiday Inn and Suites in South Charleston last week.

One man died and 16 other people went to the hospital because of a carbon monoxide leak.

Several lawmakers got behind a bill Monday to require carbon monoxide detectors not just at hotels but many other places.

Del. Tiffany Lawrence (D-Jefferson) is the lead sponsor of the bill, which would mandate CO detectors be in hotels, condominiums, apartment buildings, homes and cabins that are rented or leased, dormitories, and bed and breakfasts.

She saw firsthand the effects of the toxic gas when a college friend of hers was poisoned by carbon monoxide.

"Where we should have been proactive, we're simply being reactive at this point. But, there's really a deficit, I believe, in the law," says Lawrence.

Under current law, CO detectors are required in “any residential unit built after July 1, 1998, that has a fuel-burning cooking or heating source or which is connected to a building that has a fuel-burning heating or cooking source.”

Lawrence says her intention in sponsoring the bill is to require the detectors in new buildings. However, she expects there to be debate about requiring them in existing buildings as well. In addition, she expects there to be discussion about mandating specific locations where the CO detectors should be required to go.

Capt. Virgil White, with the South Charleston Fire Department, responded to the deadly CO leak last week and soon found himself on a task force aimed at promoting new regulations.

"It's sad it always takes something drastic to make change and for people to realize the potential dangers of things," says White.

He says it’s important for there to be statewide regulations, so that the requirements will be consistent.

Some hotel managers have installed CO detectors on their own.

Since opening, the Hotel at Mardi Gras Casino & Resort has had the detectors near gas-fueled fireplaces and other spots.

"It is a nightmare for anybody, any business, or anything like that. And, it's such a simple solution to that," said hotel operations manager Jerry Anderson.

Some lawmakers say it’s a requirement should have been in place long before this tragedy.

"We should have done this probably years ago. But, it's sort of like a coal mine. When a coal mine blows up, you don't know what's missing until people are dead," says Del. Nancy Guthrie (D-Kanawha), who is one of 10 delegates co-sponsoring the bill.

House Majority Leader Brent Boggs (D-Braxton) is also among the sponsors.
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