Hurst Speaks Out on Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Chief of Susquehanna Hose Company shares letter to the editor
The following is a letter from Susquehanna Hose Company Chief Scott Hurst, sent to Patch Friday afternoon:
To the Editor:
The City of Havre de Grace recently passed Ordinance 924 that references the requirements and locations of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. The Susquehanna Hose Company recognized a looming problem with carbon monoxide in residences in Havre de Grace when responding to calls. The SHCO had several calls over the last few years that involved high levels of carbon monoxide in residences, and some of these calls were life threatening. We also witnessed calls where carbon monoxide detectors saved the lives of entire families. As Chief of SHCO, I prepared and submitted a 70 page report to the Mayor and City Council this past July in hopes of having some type of legislation passed in reference to carbon monoxide. I felt strongly that the City of Havre de Grace was going to experience a deadly incident that involved carbon monoxide. After an incident with carbon monoxide on Congress Avenue in October, I further pursued legislation in reference to carbon monoxide. This particular incident was a case in which a carbon monoxide detector saved the lives of a family of three and possibly the families of their two neighboring townhomes. We found high levels in all three townhomes. Since then, we have had 3 other incidents that involved confirmed levels of carbon monoxide in residences. Unfortunately, Maryland in general has been hit hard this winter with at least 4 confirmed carbon monoxide deaths including over a 100 people sickened by carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide is called the “silent killer” for a reason. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless and citizens have no idea they are being exposed and sickened by it. Carbon monoxide detectors are a citizens only hope to survive a carbon monoxide leak. Carbon monoxide can be found anywhere and everywhere.
There have been numerous carbon monoxide laws around for over 20 years and numerous jurisdictions in Maryland have adopted some form of carbon monoxide legislation. Most States have carbon monoxide laws, some more stringent than others, including Maryland. The Maryland State Fire Laws have mandated carbon monoxide detectors in new construction since January of 2008. All homes built in Havre de Grace after this time were already mandated to have them. Recently, Harford County adopted the National Building Code for 2010. This code not only mandates sprinkler systems in newly constructed homes, but mandates carbon monoxide detectors in newly constructed homes. The National Building Code now supersedes the Maryland State Fire Law because Harford County is the authority having jurisdiction. The National Building Code of 2010 if more stringent then the Maryland State Fire Law due to the fact that carbon monoxide detectors are required in homes with fireplaces, wood stoves or any other wood burning heat source. These sources of carbon monoxide are excluded from the Maryland State Fire Law. I am proud to say that the City of Havre de Grace was 5 years ahead of Harford County with the requirement of sprinkler systems in newly constructed homes. I strongly feel this will also be the case with the carbon monoxide legislation that was just passed in the City of Havre de Grace. I feel it is just a matter of time before Harford County adopts legislation similar to what the City of Havre de Grace just did.
There have been several questions asked in reference to how this legislation can be enforced. The Susquehanna Hose Company will not be coming around checking homes for carbon monoxide detectors against a homeowners wishes. There have been smoke detectors requirements for over 30 years and the enforcement of carbon monoxide detectors will be the same as it is for smoke detectors. If emergency services responds to a residence for an emergency call and that residence is found to be in possible violation of the smoke and carbon monoxide detector legislation, they will be referred to either code enforcement for the City of Havre de Grace or the Maryland State Fire Marshals Office. Homeowners and landlords will be held liable in the unfortunate instances of a carbon monoxide injury if they are in violation of Ordinance 924. In the first 48 hours of the legislation passing, I received 8 phone calls from City residents in reference to what kind of carbon monoxide detectors to buy. This alone showed that this legislation is working already due to the publicity and media coverage it has received. One of those phone calls very well could have involved an ongoing carbon monoxide leak.
The Susquehanna Hose Company in the months of March and April will start an advertising campaign in reference to carbon monoxide detectors. We will do this through radio advertisements, mailings and kiosks at the different firehouses. The goal is to save lives and the bottom line is people need to be aware of the legislation and have the carbon monoxide detectors in their homes in order to protect them from carbon monoxide. Like I referenced earlier, it is working already and we as Citizens should be very proud of that. The Susquehanna Hose Company has received a donation to cover the first 40 detectors and is currently working with businesses and carbon monoxide detector manufacturers to obtain more at either a discounted price or for free. Mayor Wayne Dougherty has also confirmed that the City will match the amount of carbon monoxide detectors purchased by SHCO. These carbon monoxide detectors are intended for those who truly cannot afford to purchase one. Carbon monoxide detectors can be bought at numerous locations for around $17.00.
The Susquehanna Hose Company would like to thank the Mayor and City Council for their support of this carbon monoxide legislation. Mayor Dougherty was a huge supporter from day one of this process six months ago. I personally would like to thank Council President Bill Martin for his tireless work and dedication on Ordinance 924. Council President Martin was the driving force of this ordinance. The SHCO would also like to thank Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal Mark Bilger for his support and knowledge; he was always there to answer questions. The complete ordinance can be found at www.susquehanna5.com and I can be reached at 443-807-1022 for any questions that citizens might have. The City of Havre de Grace should be proud, they always lead the way in public safety and without a doubt make Havre de Grace one of the safest places to live in the Country.
Chief Scott Hurst
Susquehanna Hose Company