Carbon monoxide detectors could soon to be mandatory for city rental properties
WILLMAR -- A carbon monoxide detector can save your life, and now the city of Willmar is looking into updating its rental property ordinance to require the devices in all residential rental properties.
WILLMAR - A carbon monoxide detector can save your life, and now the city of Willmar is looking into updating its rental property ordinance to require the devices in all residential rental properties.
"Staff believe it is a life safety effort that is important," said Willmar Planning and Development Director Bruce Peterson during a recent meeting.
It is already state law that carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory for all new and existing single-family and multi-family homes and apartment complexes. However, city rules currently do not require them in residential rental properties.
"All new construction is meeting the codes," Peterson said, adding it makes sense to require the same level of protection for older structures.
"I don't want people to point at that and say we were negligent," if something should happen, Peterson said.
The city's Community Development Committee, and the full Willmar City Council, have approved a motion directing staff to prepare an amendment to the rental housing ordinance. The amendment will be considered at a later date.
"We're doing what I think we need to do," Peterson said.
Willmar Fire Chief Frank Hanson approves of the proposed amendment.
"It is definitely a good idea," Hanson said.
The Willmar Fire Department responds to on average 20 to 25 carbon monoxide alarms a year. While most are malfunctioning alarms, there been a couple of actual carbon monoxide leaks in homes.
Carbon monoxide is formed when a fuel source is burned. Many household systems produce the toxic gas - furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, stoves and cars.
The gas is odorless, tasteless and cannot be seen. If inhaled, the gas reduces the body's ability to absorb oxygen into the bloodstream, which then can damage the heart and brain.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can mimic the flu, minus the fever. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most common symptoms are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.
The longer a person is exposed and breathes carbon monoxide, the more severe the symptoms. If a person is exposed too long, death will occur.
"We've had a couple people who have gone to the hospital," Hanson said. Thankfully there have been no deaths.
In 2014 there were 14 carbon monoxide-related deaths in the state, according to the Minnesota Hospital Association.
The CDC said more than 400 Americans die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.
There are steps to protect a family from carbon monoxide poisoning in addition to installing detectors near every room where someone is sleeping. People should also have detectors in fish houses and boats.
"They should be detectors in there as well and be properly ventilated," Hanson said.
In addition, when warming a car up, don't keep the vehicle in the garage.
"Pull the cars outside to do that," Hanson said, because even with the garage door open, carbon monoxide can still seep into homes.
When choosing a carbon monoxide detector, there are many types available. They can be purchased at a wide range of stores.
There are combination alarms which work as a smoke detector as well as a carbon monoxide detector. There are detectors that will also alert people to a natural gas leak. Detectors can be battery-operated, hard-wired or plugged in. The newest version is wireless, which will also talk with other detectors in the house, making sure if one goes off they all do.
"All of them work well," said Randy Gatzemeyer, a department supervisor at the Willmar Home Depot.
The batteries in the detectors should be replaced every six months. Gatzemeyer recommends that be done at the same time a person changes the batteries in their smoke detectors.
Also, while a detector might say it has a 10-year warranty, they should be replaced more often than that.
"They should be replaced every five years, no matter what," Gatzemeyer said.
Gatzemeyer knows what he is talking about, because he has dealt with a carbon monoxide issue at his own home. Family started to feel ill and when he replaced his old monoxide detector with a new one, it immediately started to go off.
"Just buy them, put them in your house. They will save your life," Gatzemeyer said.