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The road to Mecklenburg County's Carbon Monoxide (CO) Health Regulation began unfortunately with a multiple death elevating the community's awareness of risk from CO.On June 24, 1999, in a condominium near downtown Charlotte, a resident apparently returns for the evening, pulls a car in the garage, closes the garage door and fails to turn off the quiet running car. The car runs for an undetermined length of time before activating the sprinkler system in the garage. The Charlotte Fire Department responds, finding the resident and a roommate dead from CO. In the adjacent unit, two other people also die of CO. Two doors away, 3 residents display symptoms and are treated for CO poisoning.In the aftermath of the incident, Code Officials are asked to inspect construction and note any obvious code deficiencies, but there are none. In fact, the construction appears very tight with intact fire separations. Nonetheless, 4 people are dead from CO. The local newspaper notes CO alarms would have prevented the deaths. A local developer calls for regulations requiring the installation of CO alarms.As fire and code officials continue to work on incident follow up, they realize they just don't know enough about carbon monoxide. They begin digging and uncover some sobering facts.
A national expert, Dr. Tom Greiner from Iowa State University is retained by the CO Team and on December 4, 1999 a day long CO seminar is held in Mecklenburg County for 50 local fire and code officials. Dr. Greiner's presentation is both informative and compelling. The session closes with an intense case study of what may have happened in the Charlotte condominium, underscoring the lethal nature of CO. Seminar participants leave with a troubled awareness of the extreme risk CO poisoning presents.Three weeks later, the CO Team reconvenes with a challenge and question to itself; in light of the Greiner Seminar, what action is appropriate? After lengthy debate, the team settles on a 5 part strategy all members agree to advance. The key elements of the strategy are:
Public Information: elevate public awareness of the danger of CO,
Physician Information: elevate physician awareness of CO symptom misdiagnosis,
CFD/MCFM: investigate risks to fire investigators on cold fire sites,
Mechanical Contractors: address the need for skilled CO mechanical service technicians,
Alarm requirement: propose a county wide Carbon Monoxide alarm requirement.