Our View: Detectors a life-safety issue

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Editorial Board, February 2009 through May 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Paul Hughes, community representative
  • Gail Smith, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Steamboat Springs and Routt County officials would be wise to consider amending local building codes to require the installation of carbon monoxide detectors.

A similar measure moved through the Colorado House of Representatives on Tuesday, with House Bill 1091 receiving the endorsement of a group representing Denver apartment owners. The bill is being fast-tracked through the Legislature.

House Bill 1091 would require all homes built after July 1 - and all homes put up for sale on or after July 1 - to have carbon monoxide detectors installed. Homebuilders would be required to install the detectors in new homes; homeowners would be the responsible party in existing homes put on the market.

House Bill 1091 also stipulates that all apartment buildings constructed after July 1 have carbon monoxide detectors in each unit. Existing apartments would have to be outfitted with a detector once a new tenant moves in. Apartments rented under long-term leases wouldn't be required to have a detector until the lease runs out.

Although required to purchase and install the detectors, homebuilders and apartment owners wouldn't be held responsible if the detectors malfunctioned.

Regardless of what happens to House Bill 1091, requiring the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in Steamboat Springs residential units is a simple matter of public safety. Some local officials appear to agree.

Steamboat Springs Planning Commissioner Dick Curtis suggested including carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers in a revised city ordinance regulating secondary units. Other Planning Commission members felt such requirements should be implemented on a broader scale.

City Council President Pro-tem Cari Hermacinski also pushed to add carbon monoxide detectors to the secondary unit ordinance, but she was rebuffed by council members who, like the Planning Commission, preferred broader implementation. Steamboat Springs Planning and Community Development Director Tom Leeson and Routt County Regional Building Department official Carl Dunham said they're working toward that end.

Steamboat Springs wouldn't be the first Colorado resort community to require carbon monoxide detectors in residential units. Aspen already has passed such an ordinance, spurred by the December deaths of a Denver family staying in a $9 million Aspen vacation home. House Bill 1091 is named after the family.

The particulars of any such codification at the local level are yet to be finalized, but we think all rental units should be required to have a carbon monoxide detector installed.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that causes fatigue and nausea - and death when breathed in higher concentrations. It's created when a fuel source such as propane, natural gas, kerosene or wood does not fully burn. Carbon monoxide detectors can be purchased for as little as $20 and work much like smoke detectors, sounding an alarm when high levels of the gas are detected. More expensive models double as smoke detectors, too.

All homeowners should consider purchasing carbon monoxide detectors for their properties, be it to protect their own loved ones or the renters who occupy their homes. Requiring builders and property owners to install detectors in their units is a prudent step with a potential benefit that outweighs concerns about the cost and burden of providing the devices. We urge the city and county to move forward with a code revision.

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