Johnstown begins fire inspections, eyes carbon monoxide compliance

JOHNSTOWN — The town has begun its annual fire inspection with an eye specifically on enforcement of carbon monoxide detectors in commercial and multi-occupant buildings.

The inspections are pursuant to state regulations issues in June of last year with a compliance date of June 27 of this year.

Town building inspector and code enforcement officer Ryan Fagan said the inspections will cover between 200 and 300 buildings outside the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown “to make sure the carbon monoxide detectors are in place.”

This includes such buildings as restaurants, apartment houses, schools, dormitories, automotive garages, stores, factories, warehouses, restaurants, parking garages and churches.

Some structures are inspected yearly, such as restaurants, churches, apartment houses and dormitories, and others on a three-year rotating schedule, such as stores, warehouses and factories, Fagan said.

Each year, an average of 450 people in the state are hospitalized by carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, of which up to 55 die, according to Steve Santa Maria, coordinator of the county’s civil defense, fire coordination and code enforcement.

Fagan said winter is prime time for carbon monoxide poisoning with furnaces potentially leaking the odorless, colorless gas.

The state regulations require the following:

∫ Placement in a central location that maximizes the detection of CO and quick notification of occupants or people coming into normally unoccupied areas.

∫ Placement in an area located in a school, a place where classes are taught, or occupied or capable of being occupied by six or more persons.

∫ Generally the detectors need to receive their primary electricity from the building wiring connected to a commercial power source, but with backup battery power and no turnoff switch except to prevent excess current flowing in. Alarms connected to 10-year batteries are acceptable in existing buildings. Central notification systems are permitted but not combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

If possible, the building inspector tries to combine his visit with an inspection by the local fire department, Fagan said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” If a person breathes in a lot of CO, it can make them pass out or kill them. People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms.

Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized, according to the CDC.

For more information about the detectors and inspections, call the building department at 762-7346, ext. 7.

By Chad Fleck

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