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Carbon Monoxide Deaths Shed Light on the Increased Exposure in Hotel Operations

Post written by: Monica Mamer

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Less than a month after an elderly couple was found dead in a Boone, North Carolina hotel, an 11-year-old boy died in that same hotel room. Sounds like a haunted hotel, right? Not exactly.

Unfortunately, police investigations found carbon monoxide poisoning to be the cause of death in both occurrances. These deaths could have been prevented had hotel management taken the proper precautionary measures to inspect the installation of a pool heater that leaked lethal amounts of carbon monoxide into the room above.

Recent events bring to light the increased exposures hotel operations face related to carbon monoxide and the lack of controls in place to prevent these tragedies. As a hotel owner or operator, it’s your job to be aware of these exposures, and take the proper safety measure to ensure the well-being of your guests.

Increased Risks of Carbon Monoxide Emissions in Hotels

Carbon monoxide (CO) is called the silent killer, because it is a colorless and odorless gas that causes loss of consciousness, or even death, as it starves the respiratory system of oxygen. For more information, check out the Center for Disease Control and Preventation CO poisoning FAQ page.

Hotels require a variety of heating equipment systems that can increase the risk of toxic CO emmisions. These include boilers to heat guest rooms, guest room water or pools and spas. Improper installation of such equipment is one cause behind increased emissions. However, CO levels can also become too high if the maintenance room housing these units has improper ventilation.

Individual heating units installed in guest rooms also create an increased exposure to CO gases. While individual units should not increase the exposure to CO more than any other heating unit, the fact that hotels have multiple units installed increases the risk that unit maintenance may be sporadic.

Additionally, the proximity from one unit to the next can also increase risks, as the venting may cross over with the intake from another unit.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Precautions in Hotels

In the past three years, eight people have died from CO poisoning, and 170 have undergone treatment while staying at hotels. And, while dwellings, condos and apartment complexes are required in many states to have CO detectors installed, a recent study reported that only six states require the installation of a CO detector within the hotel building. NO state requires a detector in every guest room. 

Without this requirement, very few hotels (less than 11 percent of chains) have CO detectors installed in every guest room. Click here to see CO detector statutes in each state.

Due the the nature of hotel operations and needed equipment, at a minimum, hotels should place CO monitors in rooms with fuel burning appliances, as well as adjacent rooms, as CO can spread throughout the hotel ventilation and forced air system.

What precautionary measure has your hotel operation taken to ensure safe levels of CO are maintained? Do you have detectors installed throughout the facility? We’d like to hear more about the steps youv’e taken to ensure the safety of your guests and employees. 

Photo Credit: Michelle Hicks (Flickr user profile)

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