New Wisconsin law requires CO detectors in homesA new law requiring all residential homes to install carbon monoxide detectors have area fire chiefs smiling.
By: By Jackie Grumish, New Richmond News
A new law requiring all residential homes to install carbon monoxide detectors have area fire chiefs smiling.
Starting Tuesday, all single- and two-family homes are required to install the detectors, which act like smoke detectors by sensing carbon monoxide gas and sounding an alarm. The law applies to both existing homes and homes under construction.
Jim VanderWyst, New Richmond Fire and Rescue chief, said the new law is probably a good thing for most residences.
“I would hope that people are smart enough to have a detector if they have a gas furnace or gas appliances,” he said.
Carbon monoxide is tasteless and odorless, he said.
“It’s really dangerous because you have no way of knowing its in your home. Just because your furnace is in the basement ... it’s going to be in your entire home,” he said. “That’s why we recommend putting a detector where you spend most of your time, whether that’s a living room, dining room, bedroom or kitchen.”
The only reason to not have a detector in your home is if you do not own any gas-burning appliances, he said.
While the law requires the detectors, there is no penalty for non-compliance.
VanderWyst said he encourages homeowners to call the fire department the minute carbon monoxide detectors begin to alarm.
“We respond in two different ways,” he said. “If there’s a sickness, or what we call symptoms, we respond as an entire department and go in with air masks to protect ourselves,” he said. “I then need to compensate my men for that.”
VanderWyst said if there’s simply an alarm going off and there’s no sickness involved, only one person will respond with a device that can measure the amount of carbon monoxide in a home.
“If you’re not sick, don’t page out the entire department,” he said.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is often mistaken as the flu because both have similar symptoms — headache, nausea and dizziness.
VanderWyst said the majority of carbon monoxide calls — roughly 80 percent — are false alarms.
“That’s fine and we don’t mind doing them,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be verified.”
In the winter, New Richmond firefighters respond to about two carbon monoxide calls each week, he said.
In Somerset, the number of carbon monoxide calls are not as common, but similar to New Richmond, the majority are false alarms.
Belisle said his department responds to 15-20 carbon monoxide calls each year.
“Only about one to two of them actually having any CO in the homes,” said Travis Belisle, Somerset Fire/Rescue chief.
The new law will undoubtedly add to the number of carbon monoxide calls that fire departments respond to; however, if homeowners are diligent in maintaining their alarms, the number of false alarms could be limited, he said.
“People really have to understand that unlike smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors lives are much shorter,” Belisle said. “They have a sensor similar to those in our gas detectors and are all dated for how long until you will need to replace them. Most carbon monoxide detector calls we respond to are false alarms and usually are related to dead batteries, expired sensors, etc. which the homeowner needs to monitor.”
VanderWyst said a good rule of thumb is to replace detectors every five years.
Belisle said he recommends a carbon monoxide detector that actually measures the amount of CO in a home.
“The ones that just alarm really don’t tell you much other than there is alarm. Some of the better ones show a number value, which people can educate themselves on what is safe and not safe, as well as if there is some type of internal error with the detector itself, like the batteries, etc.,” he said.
If homeowners suspect a detector is malfunctioning, VanderWyst suggests putting it outside for a few minutes to let it air out. If the detector continues to alarm, then it’s a good idea to call the fire department to test the home.
“As a homeowner, you don’t know if it’s a false alarm,” he said. “It’s better to be safe.”