During the regularly scheduled March 8, 2016, meeting of the Board of El Paso County Commissioners the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department (RBD) has was presented with a national award recognizing its work in promoting carbon monoxide awareness and safety by the Carbon Monoxide Safety Association (COSA). The COSA 2015 “Community Guardians Award” was presented in recognition of the RBD long term commitments to carbon monoxide safety and education programs that raise awareness and help to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in our community.
“This is an incredible commendation recognizing the commitment to carbon monoxide safety practices that impact employees and the citizens of El Paso County,” said Bob Dwyer, Director of Training for the Carbon Monoxide Safety Association. “In the State of Colorado you are an outstanding example for building officials everywhere.”
“It’s nice to be recognized and justifies what we are doing,” said Roger Lovell of RBD. “Awareness has the potential to save lives. Our efforts are a success if we can reduce carbon monoxide related illnesses and deaths.”
Howard Brooks, of the nonprofit Emergency Resource Center, said stakeholders in the region, including El Paso County Public Health, created a carbon monoxide task force in 2012 that identifies different ways to help create awareness and solve issues. “Our Regional Building Department has now been recognized all over the country as one of the leaders in preventing carbon monoxide issues. Great work by Jack Arrington and the staff.”
Jack Arrington, RBD’s Chief Plumbing and Mechanical Inspector said, “We have been working on the carbon monoxide awareness program for several years.”
The program consists of checking CO levels onsite during all inspector location visits. RBD has distributed low-level carbon monoxide detectors to three specific groups: RBD’s 50 inspectors who make 500 to 600 visits to a day to homes and business, El Paso County Public Health Inspectors and the licensed heating inspectors of the Pikes Peak Mechanical Contractors Association. These inspectors all carry the sophisticated highly sensitive a personal carbon monoxide detectors.
All RBD inspectors are equipped with the highest quality personal detectors so that they are able to detect any carbon monoxide that may be present and make sure they are corrected. “Regional Building is proud to partner with El Paso County and may other local organizations to help combat the so-called “silent killer” carbon monoxide,” said Roger Lovell. “Making the public aware of the dangers and sources of carbon monoxide is important to keeping people safe and alive.”
El Paso County Public Health inspectors are also equipped with high quality detectors so that they can detect any problems during inspections of child care centers, restaurants and swimming pool facilities. “We perform about 6,000 on site inspections each year and this is a great opportunity for us to provide an additional level of public safety,” said Environmental Health Services Director Tom Gonzales.
Another step in the carbon monoxide awareness program was a donation to the Security Widefield Fire Department. RBD donated a Masimo Rad-57 to help indentify carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Just like an oxygen sensor on your finger tip, the Masimo Rad-57 can detect carbon monoxide in your blood without having to draw blood,” Arringtion said. “The fire department gets a major number of carbon monoxide calls.”
Carbon monoxide build-up is not the same as a natural gas leak, although both are dangerous. A distinct “odor of rotten eggs” is added to natural gas to warn of leaks while carbon monoxide has no odor.
For more information on carbon monoxide safety, visit the Carbon Monoxide Safety Association (COSA) at www.cosafety.org.
Bob Dwyer said, “What you are doing here (in El Paso County), I would continue to support. You are going to save more lives and prevent injuries.”
It is important to note that smoke detectors are not carbon monoxide detectors and do not warn of carbon monoxide. There are some combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on the market but experts say you must have one of these units or a separate carbon monoxide detector to be safe.
Important Tips to Reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
- When purchasing a CO detector, be sure it conforms to Underwriters Laboratories standard (UL) 2034 or is American Gas Association certified. Follow the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions. NOTE: The U.L. 2034 Listed alarms are high level alarms. People with respiratory or heart problems and others who want to be warned about carbon monoxide in their homes and buildings before high levels are detected should look into low level carbon monoxide alarms but “low level” alarms are more expensive and will sound off more frequently.
- Check previously installed CO detectors for expiration or manufactured dates and replace as needed.
- Have a qualified professional annually inspect heating all fuel-burning appliances. Ask to make sure that the inspection includes a measurement of carbon monoxide levels.
- Do not operate fuel burning appliances, vehicles, gasoline powered generators, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, unvented space heaters in an attached garage without approved venting systems to get combustion gasses safely outside.
- Never use a gas range or oven for heat. Use the exhaust fan to carry the fumes outside.
- Have a qualified professional regularly inspect a fuel-burning fireplace for proper ventilation.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning vary by the amount of CO absorbed into the bloodstream. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with respiratory or heart problems are at greater risk. Trained medical professionals can check patients for CO poisoning with a simple test but diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning based solely on symptoms is not reliable.