If the topic wasn’t so serious, the hospitality industry’s arguments about why there is no need for it to install carbon monoxide detectors in hotel rooms would be funny. But death isn’t a laughing matter.

The industry tried to justify its inaction in a well-researched story that USA Today just did on why hotel rooms should have alarms to detect the odorless, lethal gas. The newspaper tried to get a tally on how many guests have died, or had to be evacuated, due to carbon monoxide leaks at hotels. It did so by poring over media reports about such incidents, as well as talking to local fire chiefs.


USA Today confirmed what I already knew, namely that very few of the nation’s hotels have installed carbon monoxide detectors in guest rooms. Very few states or towns have laws requiring them to do so, so they don’t yet — more on that later.

In its research USA Today found that from 2010 to Nov. 8 this year, there were 30 incidents of officials finding high levels of carbon monoxide in hotels. Eight people died in those incidents and 170 were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, the paper reported.

An academic, professor of medicine Lindell Weaver at the University of Utah, did his own survey, for the period of 1989 through 2004, of carbon monoxide and hotels. That study found that there had been 68 carbon monoxide incidents, 27 deaths and 772 people who had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, according to USA Today.

The paper cited several examples of lethal carbon monoxide poisoning in hotels, including an incident 2 years ago where five teens died in a Hialeah, Fla., hotel after they left their car running in its garage.

A hotel industry spokesman told USA Today said that carbon monoxide poisonings at hotels are rare, that guests have a better chance of being struck by lightning, so there is no need to install them and there should be no laws mandating that they be installed. Putting CO alarms in rooms would also cause the hospitality industry a bundle.

Weaver makes the same argument that I would make: That even though hotel fires are infrequent, hotel rooms have smoke detectors.

But the story had an interesting revelation, that the International Building Codes (IBC) and the International Fire Codes (IFC) now mandate that existing and new hotels put carbon monoxide detectors in guest rooms or in common areas.

According to one expert quoted in the USA Today story, “all states adopt the IBC, 44 states adopt the IFC, and cities and counties ‘typically’ adopt these codes.”

But that expert said that it takes a couple of years for states and counties to adopt them these standards. I guess that’s when we will finally have carbon monoxide detectors in hotel rooms.

But until then, hotel guests may die because the hospitality industry won’t do the right thing.



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