CO Home Safety Ltd

Wisconsin bill may require carbon monoxide detectors in homes to increase safety

Richard Jarosinski couldn't see the hairline crack in his hot water heater and he couldn't smell anything wrong in the air.

But three weeks ago, Jarosinski could certainly hear the danger.

Jarosinski's carbon monoxide detector shrieked so loud that he could hear it outside his house in Arkansaw, a small community in western Wisconsin.

Jarosinski credits the detector for saving his life.

"It should be mandatory in every home," he said.

State law may soon make that happen. The Legislature this past week passed a bill requiring carbon monoxide detectors in single-family homes and duplexes. If signed by Gov. Jim Doyle, it would take effect in February 2011. His staff, reached late Friday afternoon, did not know what action he would take.

There won't be any carbon monoxide police writing tickets for noncompliers. The bill doesn't carry any fines for violations.

"The goal was to propose a soft mandate to encourage as much compliance for the high percentage of places that are most likely to be impacted," said state Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, the bill's author.

Hintz said the bill builds on legislation passed last year that applies to other structures, like apartment buildings. This bill applies to single- and two-family homes.

Detectors would be required on every level of a home, except attics and storage areas. Home inspections would check for the detectors during the sale of a house.

"We are doing something that is preventative," Hintz said. "A lot of time in Madison, there's legislation that's proposed after an awful accident or incident and is reactionary. We have had incidents, but this isn't being proposed because of something that happened a month ago."

Hintz said the bill essentially matches language in a smoke detector law that's been on the books since 1977.

"The goal is compliance," he said. "Most people who have smoke detectors don't even realize that it's law."

State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, the lead Senate sponsor of the bill, said carbon monoxide poisoning kills more than 2,000 people a year and sends 40,000 more to the hospital.

"We have the opportunity to save lives and protect families," he said.

A state Department of Justice spokesman said his agency, which includes the state fire marshal, has not taken a position on the bill.

Larry Plumer, president of the Wisconsin State Firefighters Association, said he thinks the bill sounds like a good idea. He said the detectors can and will save lives.

"I think (the bill) is going to save lives," he said. "But I don't know if forcing somebody to do it is the correct answer until I study it some more."

Brian Noel, an Appleton fire inspector and investigator, said his agency is implementing the multi-family requirement passed last year that takes effect in April.

"We're always recommending them," he said. "They are very good to have in one- and two-family (homes)."

Since his carbon monoxide scare, Jarosinski has purchased a second detector for his home. He said people should purchase the devices, regardless of the law.

"You are doggone right," he said. "I highly advise it."