SF residents urged to install carbon monoxide detectors


San Francisco fire and building inspection officials today encouraged residents to install carbon monoxide detectors before a new state law takes effect in January that will require all homes to have them.

“This is a life safety issue,” said Tom Hui, acting director of the city’s Department of Building Inspection, at a news conference at a Richmond District shelter this morning.

The colorless, odorless gas is responsible for more than 400 deaths and 20,000 emergency room visits annually in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“You could be in the room and never notice it,” Fire Marshal Tom Harvey said.

A state law that went into effect in July 2011 requires that carbon monoxide detectors be installed in all single-family dwellings and duplexes. The law is being expanded to cover all other dwelling units starting on Jan. 1.

Building inspectors will be checking homes around the city beginning in January to ensure that the law is being followed, Hui said. Violations could lead to a $200 fine.

The devices cost as little as $10 and can be purchased at hardware stores and elsewhere. They should be placed outside sleeping areas and on each floor of a building, Harvey said.

The detectors can save lives because victims often do not realize there is a leak until they develop symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as headaches and nausea, Harvey said.

The leaks come from fuel-powered devices such as heaters, dryers and stoves, and are more common in older buildings, he said.

Homeowners and landlords are responsible for installing the devices, and Hui said tenants are encouraged to send complaints to his department if a landlord is not complying.

Today’s reminder about the detectors comes after a carbon monoxide scare in the city’s Bernal Heights last weekend in which 14 people were hospitalized in what turned out to be a false alarm.

Residents were smoking cigarettes at a duplex and heard an alarm go off, and thought it was a carbon monoxide detector. Crews responded and determined there was no such detector installed there and that it was the smoke alarm that went off, fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.

Some of the 14 people hospitalized had elevated levels of carbon monoxide in their bloodstream but no leak was found in the home. Investigators concluded that the smoking of cigarettes led to the elevated levels, Talmadge said.

In another incident, a hotel in Burlingame near San Francisco International Airport was evacuated earlier this month because of a carbon monoxide leak linked to a boiler leak.

More information about carbon monoxide poisoning and how to prevent it is available online at www.cdc.gov/co.

(Copyright 2012 Bay City News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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