Use of carbon monoxide detectors not required hereA carbon monoxide detector could have prevented last Friday’s poisoning of about 30 people at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Jamestown, but no building is required by code to have one. “You’re not required to have a carbon monoxide detector for Jamestown,” said Jim Reuther, fire chief for the Jamestown Fire Department.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
A carbon monoxide detector could have prevented last Friday’s poisoning of about 30 people at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Jamestown, but no building is required by code to have one.
“You’re not required to have a carbon monoxide detector for Jamestown,” said Jim Reuther, fire chief for the Jamestown Fire Department.
Jamestown last updated its fire code in 2003, which could have mandated the installation of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, Reuther said.
However, the fire department encourages any place that’s going to be inhabited by people to install a detector, Reuther said. That includes places where a number of people might congregate or live.
Other churches like First United Methodist and Temple Baptist are without CO detectors but plan on bringing the idea to their boards at meetings later this week, church officials said.
“I would think it’s a distinct possibility,” said the Rev. Dr. Randy Jaspers, minister at Temple Baptist.
Jaspers has a detector in his own home as does the Rev. Kenrad Pederson, pastor of First United Methodist Church.
Pederson said he will recommend the idea “Both because of the recent situation … and also because it’s a good idea.”
Trinity Lutheran Church is also without a detector but because of the design inside the building, air moves in and out, said Joleen Scott, administrative secretary at Trinity.
“Our air moves around here quite a bit,” Scott said. “It’s not like the older churches or buildings.”
Another house of worship that does not need detectors is St. James Basilica because it uses geothermal heat, said the Rev. Al Bitz.
CO is an invisible, odorless colorless gas that is created when certain fuels like natural gas, propane, wood or coal burn incompletely, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Because St. James is heated from heat coming from the earth and not any type of gas, there is no need for detectors, Bitz said.
Area churches aren’t the only high-occupancy buildings in town without CO detectors; both Hi-Acres Manor and Ave Maria Village lack them, administrators said.
Nursing homes in James-town house and provide medical care for dozens of elderly residents. Gary Riffe, administrator at Hi-Acres Manor, said nursing homes are heavily regulated and are required to have air ventilation systems constantly bringing in fresh air and removing stale air.
Both of the nursing homes also have their boiler systems inspected on a regular basis, administrators said.
Jamestown Hospital has similar regulations requiring air to be constantly ventilated, said Nikki Gartner, plant manger at the hospital. The hospital doesn’t have a CO detector but does have its boilers inspected twice a year, she said.
Jamestown College also has its boilers inspected on a regular basis, said Mark Koepke, physical plant manager at Jamestown College. Koepke said he knew of one detector by the boiler in Kroeze Hall.
While some students who live on campus have a detector, guests staying at any of Jamestown’s lodgings may not.
Gary Peterson, manager at the Super 8 Motel, said he doesn’t believe the building is equipped with CO detectors but said the heating system is inspected once a year.
The Holiday Inn Express has two CO detectors, one in the lobby and one by the gas-powered dryers, said Erin Bear, hotel manager.
The events last Friday have made people in the community more aware of the dangers of CO poisoning, Reuther said. He said the price of a life is far more valuable than the $20 to $60 cost for a CO detector.
Reuther also said to only buy CO detectors marked with a “UL” meaning it has been tested by Underwriters’ Laboratories. UL is a company recognized by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration for testing products for safety.
“We always sit here and think these things can’t happen to us,” Reuther said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at email@example.com