Time is running short for landlords to install carbon monoxide alarms in all residential dwelling units. This applies even for dwellings that don’t have fireplaces or gas-fired appliances, because these are not the cause of the most severe incidents. Following our 2006 windstorm, 250 people were treated for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in the Puget Sound area and eight died, all from either burning charcoal briquettes inside their homes or from improper use of gasoline-powered generators. In response to these tragedies, new state-wide law and building codes will require CO alarms in most residential buildings, including single-family homes.
January 1, 2013 – All New and Existing Apartments and Rental Houses: State law requires all covered residential units to have CO detectors installed by New Year’s Day. Permit applications for alterations to existing single-family and multi-family dwellings must demonstrate that the CO detectors are already in place or include them as part of the project. (This requirement is not triggered by work on exterior finishes, plumbing, or non-combustion mechanical equipment.)
Owner-Occupied Single-Family Houses: New houses must include CO alarms. Existing owner-occupied homes are exempt from the January 1 deadline, but they are still required to include CO alarms in any building permit application for interior remodeling. When the house is sold, state law also requires that CO alarms be installed before the new owner takes occupancy.
Hotels, Dorms and Institutions: Sleeping rooms in hotels, motels, dormitories, DSHS-licensed boarding homes and residential treatment facilities do not require CO alarms if the sleeping rooms are properly isolated from any fireplace, fuel-burning appliance or attached garage, and if there are CO alarms in the building’s common areas. (If these units contain or are connected in some manner to fireplaces, fuel-burning appliances (gas furnace, water heater, range) or attached garages, this exception would not apply.)
How to Comply
Simply install the CO alarms in the area right outside of each bedroom, with at least one alarm for each floor of the dwelling. They cost $20 and up at local hardware stores, and you can either choose a model that runs entirely on batteries or a plug-in model with battery backup. Combination smoke alarm/CO alarm units are also available, and all units should be UL-2034 compliant.
These new code provisions were developed with input from medical professionals, building operators, engineers and other experts to effectively prevent carbon monoxide poisonings while minimizing cost and disruption to owners and tenants. As all homes and apartments are fitted with CO alarms, the frequency of carbon monoxide poisonings in our community should decrease dramatically.
The new code text will be located at Sections 908.7 and 4603.8 of the Fire Code, plus Section R315 of the Residential Code. Links to these revisions are located on the SBCC web site at: https://fortress.wa.gov/ga/apps/sbcc/Page.aspx?nid=168.
Read the full text of the state law at: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=19.27.530
Submit your questions to DPD’s Online Q&A Service: http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/LUQnA/?Type=2