Carbon monoxide (CO) is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the U.S. Currently only 22 U.S. states have state-wide statutes requiring carbon monoxide alarms in residences. UTC Fire & Security’s Kidde Residential & Commercial (Kidde R&C) business is committed to protecting families from the risk of CO poisoning and is calling for CO safety legislation in all 50 states.
Known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is produced by fossil fuel-burning appliances, heating sources and car exhaust fumes. At high concentration levels CO can be fatal in minutes.
Statistics from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) show that carbon monoxide poisoning kills at least 500 people each year in the U.S. and sends more than 20,000 to hospital emergency rooms for treatment.
“Cases of CO poisoning rise in colder months, as use of fossil fuels in heating appliances and fire places increases,” said Jim Ward, Vice President and General Manager of Kidde R&C. “Our goal in seeking these safety laws is to raise awareness of the risk and help keep people protected.”
After passage of a CO alarm law, states typically find a significant increase in carbon monoxide emergency calls, indicating that consumers with alarms are more apt to be made aware of potential carbon monoxide build-up in their homes. In Illinois, for example, the state poison control center reported a 92% increase in emergency calls after their CO alarm law came into effect. Massachusetts has seen a 93% increase.
Fire officials believe the increased awareness of the problem and use of CO alarms allow first responders to get to victims sooner, which saves lives and reduces injuries.
Over the past five years, Kidde has championed legislative efforts by drafting bills and codes in partnership with health and safety advocates, firefighters, and lawmakers. Kidde also works with local CO poisoning survivors and their families, giving them the opportunity to tell their stories and prevent future CO incidents. In 2008 bills requiring CO alarms in certain dwellings were introduced in California, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. Laws in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Michigan passed last year. Colorado passed a bill February 26 of this year requiring CO alarms be installed in existing and new single and multi-family dwellings, beginning July 1, 2009.
“Moving legislative bodies to adopt these types of proactive safety laws can take time – the process is different in each state and requires a lot of educating and coalition building,” said Ward. “Local firefighters and others, such as Safe Kids coalitions and victims’ families, play a vital role by testifying at committee hearings, writing letters, and sharing their views with the media. They’re investing their time because they know it saves lives.”
In addition to its legislative efforts, Kidde donates nearly $1 million in fire safety products annually to fire departments for distribution to families in need.
“Kidde’s mission is to protect people and property from fire and related hazards,” said Ward. “So doing what we can to pass laws that will help keep people safe is a natural fit.”
“After all, saving lives is our business,” he concluded.