Should Georgia schools be required to detect carbon monoxide?

10:23 PM, Dec 4, 2012   |    comments
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Video: Carbon monoxide Q&A

  • Finch Elementary students carried out of building after carbon monoxide leak
  • Finch Elementary students arrive at Atlanta's Hughes Spalding children's hospital after carbon monoxide leak
  • Carbon Monoxide detector
  • Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner Ralph Hudgens
  • State Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta)

ATLANTA -- There's an old adage that it takes a certain number of deaths before a traffic light is put up at a dangerous intersection.

Special Coverage | Protecting against carbon monoxide

Thankfully, no one died when a boiler valve malfunctioned at Atlanta's Finch Elementary School on Monday, sending potentially deadly carbon monoxide through the building and 40 children and 10 adults to the hospital.

Nearly all survived in good condition after complaining of nausea and headaches.

On Tuesday the state's top fireman assured 11 Alive he wants to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"Very definitely we dodged a bullet, but there may be more bullets out there," said Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.

Hudgens told us he plans to ask Georgia's General Assembly to at least set up a study committee to look into whether carbon monoxide detectors should be required in all schools.

Right now Georgia law only requires them in newly built one or two family homes.

Only two states, Maryland and Connecticut, require them in schools.

The Maryland law was prompted by carbon monoxide incidents that sent 52 people from two different Baltimore schools to the hospital in one week last year.

Commissioner Hudgens told 11 Alive he'd like to see detectors required not only in schools, but in nursing homes as well.

He said the cost should be reasonable.

"You can buy a carbon monoxide detector for about twenty bucks, so a school system, if they wanted to buy one for every school, then it's not gonna cost much," said Hudgens.

He said each school should only need one CO detector wherever there's a flame, like in a furnace or boiler room.

It could be tied into the school's alarm system which would go off whenever there's a leak.

A slightly more sophisticated one could even shut down the furnace or boiler, according to Hudgens.

Meanwhile, State Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) told 11 Alive he's considering introducing a bill to require the detectors in schools.

"I've got a call into our legal counsel to ask him to look at what other states are doing," Fort said.

Normally the state legislature tried to avoid micromanaging how cash-strapped school systems manage their money, but he believes it should in this instance.

"The cost is an issue, but the paramount issue is the safety of children, making sure that they are in a safe learning environment," Fort added.

State Legislator Jeffrey Berger, who wrote Connecticut's law, told 11 Alive the smoke detectors used in his state were about $50 each and cost an average sized school system about $5,000 to install.

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