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New Carbon Monoxide Alarm Law Will Save Lives

Montgomery County Fire & Rescue is reminding residents about new requirements for Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Beginning July 1, 2019, a new law in Montgomery County will require many existing single-unit, two-unit and townhouse dwellings to have Carbon Monoxide Alarms located outside sleeping areas and on every level of a home. Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms are designed to emit an alarm when high levels of CO are detected but before they reach life-threatening levels.

The Carbon Monoxide Alarm Law changes are the result of an initiative by Council Member Craig Rice and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue officials to promote carbon monoxide safety, education and awareness due to the serious danger Carbon Monoxide (CO) poses. CO Alarms provide vital, highly effective and low-cost protection against CO poisoning. If fuel-burning appliances are not working properly or used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result. Properly installed Carbon Monoxide Alarms provide reliable, highly effective and low-cost protection against carbon monoxide poisoning.

The new law requires all single, two-unit, and townhouse dwellings built before 2008 that have a fuel-burning appliance, fireplace or attached garage to install and maintain Carbon Monoxide Alarms beginning July 1, 2019. Maryland State Law has required Carbon Monoxide Alarms in newly-constructed homes since January 2008.


Why is this important?

Carbon Monoxide is often called the "silent killer" because it is odorless, tasteless and invisible making this toxic gas one of the most overlooked, and potentially deadly, dangers in homes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 400 people die and 50,000 people are admitted to emergency rooms as the result of CO poisoning each year. Carbon Monoxide Alarms are designed to keep you and your family safe.

Does this new law apply to me?

Homes built before 2008 that are powered by electricity and do not have a fuel-burning appliance, fireplace or attached garage are not required to install Carbon Monoxide Alarms.

What type of Carbon Monoxide Alarms are available?

There are a wide variety of Carbon Monoxide Alarms on the market and include battery-powered, plug-in and hard-wired Carbon Monoxide Alarms and meet the requirements of the new law.

What about Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms?

For years Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms were separate units. Recently, alarms have been manufactured that have the technology to detect both smoke and carbon monoxide. These "combination alarms" need to match the power source for the home's smoke alarms.

Are battery operated or hard wired Carbon Monoxide Alarms required by the new law?

For properties built before 2008, the power source for your Carbon Monoxide Alarms can be battery operated, hard wired with a battery back-up or plug-in with a battery back-up. For Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms, the power supply must match the existing Code requirements for your home's smoke alarms.

Where should Carbon Monoxide Alarms be installed?

Proper placement of Carbon Monoxide Alarms is important. For homes built before 2008, Montgomery County law requires that Carbon Monoxide Alarms be installed: - On every occupiable level of the residence including basements, excluding attics and crawl spaces. - Outside sleeping areas.

For homes built after January 1, 2008 Carbon Monoxide Alarms should be installed in accordance with the applicable building codes at the time of construction or alteration/modification. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing Carbon Monoxide Alarms.

At what height should Carbon Monoxide Alarms be installed?

Unlike smoke which rises to the ceiling, CO mixes with air. Carbon Monoxide Alarms may be installed at any height. However, if a combination smoke/CO alarm is used it must be installed on or near the ceiling, per manufacturer’s instructions, to ensure that it can detect smoke effectively.

What are the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath, upset stomach, chest pain and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can help you respond quickly in the event of an emergency.

What do the different beeps mean?

A Carbon Monoxide Alarm has different beep patterns to communicate whether there is an emergency or simply a service or maintenance issue. It is important to know the difference between the different beep patterns. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions.

What if my Carbon Monoxide Alarm sounds?

Immediately have everyone in the home get outdoors to fresh air and call 911 from outside the building. Because Carbon Monoxide Alarms can detect low levels of carbon monoxide, your alarm may activate before anyone feels ill. Signs of CO poisoning don't always happen right away. CO poisoning can happen gradually over a period of days or even weeks, depending on the levels of CO in your home. Re-enter your home only after it has been deemed safe by emergency responders.

When should Carbon Monoxide Alarms be replaced?

Replace Carbon Monoxide Alarms when the manufacturer’s replacement date is reached, when the alarm fails to respond to an operability test, or the end-of-life signal is active.

Where can I get Carbon Monoxide Alarms?

Carbon Monoxide Alarms are available for purchase at many stores and on-line. Only purchase alarms that are approved by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) in order to ensure that your alarms meet their strict testing and safety requirements.

And don’t forget:

  • Emergency generators: Don’t use them in your garage or basement. Put them outside the house at least 20 feet from windows or doors.

  • Maintenance: Have a qualified technician inspect your heating system, water heater and any other fuel-burning appliances every year. If you have a fireplace, the chimney also needs to be checked.

  • Grills and portable camp stoves: Only use them outdoors.

  • Vehicles: Have your car or truck’s exhaust system checked each year. Never warm-up or leave a vehicle running in a garage. Even with the garage door open, dangerous fumes can seep inside the house.

Source: Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service

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