Effective September 3, 2017 a change to the New Jersey Uniform Fire Code N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.9 (d) went into effect, requiring CO alarms in all existing buildings which contain a fuel-burning appliance or have an attached garage. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, order-less, tasteless, gas that is slightly lighter than air, it is produced as a byproduct of combustion. Because CO is not detectable by any of our senses and we often find ourselves in basements, crawlspaces, and mechanical rooms, during our inspections, our inspectors carry a small personal CO Alarm. This device will alert us if we enter an environment with unsafe levels of CO.
Recently during an annual inspection we had informed a local business of the need to install CO alarms. During the re-inspection it was discovered that they had not yet installed CO alarms. It was also during this re-inspection that our personal CO alarm activated while walking through the business. The business was evacuated, and our partners in the Flemington Fire Department responded out to verify the presence of CO with their Gas Meters, then remove the buildup of CO from the business, and assist in determining and securing the source of the CO. It was discovered that a malfunctioning appliance was creating large amounts of CO. Filling the building with this dangerous levels of CO. With guidance from an employee of the business the faulty appliance was properly shut down and secured, stopping the production of CO. A short time later after fans were used to blow fresh air through the building no more CO was detected and the business went back to operation less one appliance.
The takeaway from this incident shows how important it is to have a working Carbon Monoxide alarm. And to ensure appliances are properly maintained and working correctly. Luckily there was no injuries or fatalities from this incident. Had the problem not been discovered when it was the results could have been different.
The need for a CO alarm is not limited to a business and is not new. Anyone who has rented, purchased or sold a home in the last 15 years that has an attached garage or a fuel burning appliance in it, has been required to have a working CO Alarm in addition to a Smoke Alarm. More recently a fire extinguisher has been required to also be present and mounted to a wall in the home in order to receive the required certificate needed for a closing.
As Fall and Winter season approach, furnaces, and fireplaces are going to be getting used. Please ensure they are properly serviced and chimneys are cleaned of creosote buildup.