Carbon Monoxide Detectors Not Required In Oklahoma Schools

Wednesday, May 1st 2013, 10:40 pm
By: News 9

We hear a lot about gun violence and even bullying in schools. But the greatest risk to our children while they're learning may be something we can't see.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible gas. It comes from things like heaters, stoves and cars. High levels or leaks can be dangerous,  even deadly. Every year, C-O poisonings kill nearly 500 people and another 15,000 are seen at hospitals.

In the past few months, CO leaks have made dozens of children sick and forced evacuations at schools in Atlanta, Nashville and Kansas City.

A CO detector is the only line of protection to prevent poisoning. That's where the problem lies in Oklahoma. While all schools are equipped with smoke detectors and sprinkler systems, only two states have laws requiring carbon monoxide detectors in schools. Oklahoma is not one of them.

Fire departments like Midwest City inspect schools several times a year to make sure they meet safety codes. Major David Richardson didn't realize CO detectors weren't required until we asked about it.

"That does surprise me," Maj. Richardson said. "When you brought it to my attention, I hadn't really thought about it."

We also brought it to the attention of school districts all over the metro.

"It's a little bit surprising," Steve Lindley with Putnam City Schools said.

We didn't find one school with CO detectors in hallways or classrooms.

The Putnam City School District installed them in every kitchen. And since we started asking questions,  the district is considering doing even more.

"It's an issue that has our attention," Lindley said. "We don't have fires in our buildings every day, but we have fire alarms. We have fire sprinklers. We do fire drills. Our community doesn't have tornadoes every day, but we have tornado sirens. So it's just an example of another layer of protection that needs to happen at some point."

Carbon monoxide detectors aren't in Oklahoma City Public Schools either, but CO levels in all heat sources are checked twice a year.  And the district's chief operations officers said they're proactive if a child shows signs of illness.

"If the level is to a point where it's dangerous or getting in that direction, then we'll shut the unit off and make immediate repairs," Jim Burkey said.

But that doesn't prevent illness or death. We asked the State's largest district if it's considering a change.

Burkey tells us, "Anything dealing with student safety, yes, it would be a priority consideration on what we would need to do."

Major Richardson thinks carbon monoxide detectors in schools are a no brainer.

"It's a very inexpensive way to put something in place that could potentially save lives," Maj. Richardson said.

Major Richardson said carbon monoxide detectors should actually be kept away from actual CO sources like kitchen stoves to avoid false readings.

By the way, the two states that require carbon monoxide detectors in schools are Maryland and Connecticut.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

* Headache

* Dizziness

* Weakness

* Nausea

* Vomiting

* Chest Pain

* Confusion

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

* Never leave a motor running parked in a garage

* Do not use portable flammable chemical heaters indoors

* Never use a charcoal grill indoors

* Always vent stove or fireplace when in use

* Have your chimney checked and cleaned every use

* During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow build-up

* Generators should be used in well-ventilated locations outdoors, away from windows and doors

Carbon Monoxide Safety:

* Each detector is different when it comes to where on the wall to mount it, so make sure you read the instructions

* CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside sleeping areas

* Do not install within 5 feet of heating or cooking appliances, in garages or near areas exposed to the weather

* Test CO alarms at least once a month

* If the CO alarm sounds, open windows or go outside. If it continues to sound, call the fire department