Legislature(2003 - 2004)

01/21/2004 03:16 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 351-CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTION DEVICES                                                                                      
Number 2162                                                                                                                     
CHAIR ANDERSON  announced that the  next order of  business would                                                               
be  HOUSE  BILL  NO.  351,  "An  Act  relating  to  the  devices,                                                               
including   carbon  monoxide   detection  devices,   required  in                                                               
dwellings; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                
Number 2132                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE MAX  GRUENBERG, Alaska State  Legislature, sponsor                                                               
of HB  351, told the  committee that Representative Gatto  and he                                                               
are  both  sponsors  of  this  bill and  a  companion  bill  that                                                               
actually adds  arson to the  list of compensable  violent crimes.                                                               
He  explained  that  the  bill  is  designed  to  save  lives  by                                                               
requiring that  by January 1,  2005, all qualifying  residents in                                                               
the state  have carbon  monoxide detection devices.   On  page 2,                                                               
Section  4,  lines 15-18  defines  qualifying  dwelling units  as                                                               
those that contain  or are serviced by a  gas-fueled appliance or                                                               
device, by  an oil-fueled device,  or by  a wood stove  or [where                                                               
the  unit]  has an  attached  garage,  he said.    Representative                                                               
Gruenberg  pointed  out  that an  all-electric  unit  without  an                                                               
attached  garage  would  have  no  need  for  a  carbon  monoxide                                                               
detection device.   He went on to say that  this bill simply adds                                                               
to the smoke detection device legislation.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG explained that  HB 351 requires that the                                                               
[carbon monoxide  detection device]  be installed  and maintained                                                               
in residences and  rental units.  He referred to  page 3, Section                                                               
5,  lines 10  and  11, where  it states  that  the landlord  must                                                               
provide  the  carbon  monoxide  detection device.    On  page  3,                                                               
Section  5, lines  28 and  29, it  states that  the tenant  shall                                                               
maintain  the device,  he  commented.   Representative  Gruenberg                                                               
told the members  that this legislation has been  enacted in West                                                               
Virginia, Rhode  Island, New  York, New Jersey,  and a  number of                                                               
cities.   He added that  this legislation  came to him  through a                                                               
national task force that is headed  by a woman who lost her child                                                               
to carbon monoxide poisoning.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG told  the  members that  Representative                                                               
Gatto  knows much  more  about  this issue,  as  he  serves as  a                                                               
Number 1999                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  commented  that  gas, oil,  and  wood  are                                                               
mentioned in the bill, but not coal.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked if  Representative Gatto wanted to                                                               
do an amendment to HB 351.                                                                                                      
Number 1969                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  displayed a [carbon monoxide]  detector and                                                               
explained that  the digital readout  gives an accurate  level [of                                                               
carbon  monoxide] at  the moment  it is  read.   The device  also                                                               
shows  the  peak level,  the  highest  level  since it  was  last                                                               
checked.  He  said that the device  is very easy to  use:  simply                                                               
take it  out of the  box and plug  it into an  electrical outlet.                                                               
Representative Gatto  told the members  that carbon  monoxide has                                                               
the same  gravity as  air, so  there should  not be  concern that                                                               
carbon monoxide would sink down close to the floor.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  shared the story  of a family of  five that                                                               
died from [carbon  monoxide poisoning].  They had  a detector and                                                               
never  knew what  happened because  there  was some  construction                                                               
work  being  done [on  their  home]  and  the detector  had  been                                                               
removed from  the wall and disabled.   Making this law  would not                                                               
have saved  this family.   They made  the mistake of  taping over                                                               
their air intakes to their  furnace because the temperatures were                                                               
so cold.                                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO told  the members  that his  primary reason                                                               
for  supporting this  bill is  his concern  for children.   At  a                                                               
young age,  children utilize  oxygen at a  much faster  rate than                                                               
adults do.  They also "up-take"  carbon monoxide at a much faster                                                               
rate than adults.  As a result,  if there is a very minor problem                                                               
[of  carbon monoxide  presence],  but it  continues  on for  long                                                               
periods of time,  which can happen because there  is no awareness                                                               
of the existing problem, then  the children up-take low levels of                                                               
carbon monoxide.   He went on to tell the  committee that a child                                                               
that  is  in  this  situation  goes off  to  school  with  carbon                                                               
monoxide in  his/her blood.   It  takes five  hours to  reach the                                                               
"half-life," so the  child still has some  carbon monoxide [level                                                               
in  his/her  blood]  when  returning home  from  school  and  the                                                               
process begins again.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO told  the members  that these  devices also                                                               
have a time-weighted measurement.  The  device does not work as a                                                               
smoke alarm  does, which [sounds  when the temperature  rises to]                                                               
300 or when the smoke is thick.   This device will sound an alarm                                                               
if the  levels are high; if  the levels are low,  the device will                                                               
be measured,  and if the  levels continue, the device  adds them,                                                               
he said.  He explained that if  the levels are low, it could take                                                               
two weeks  before the device  would [sound  its alarm].   He told                                                               
the  members that  the device  costs $25  and has  a battery  for                                                               
Number 1727                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO told  the members  that this  condition for                                                               
children leads  to slower learning and  some permanent impairment                                                               
if the  conditions exist for  a long enough  period.  He  said he                                                               
would like to  see as many of  these devices in as  many homes as                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO shared  that when he was the  captain of the                                                               
fire department  and there was  an emergency call, he  would have                                                               
the  emergency crew  deal with  the medical  emergencies, and  he                                                               
would do a safety  check in the house.  Many  times he would find                                                               
a smoke alarm without a battery or  with a dead battery.  He said                                                               
he often would replace it, particularly for elderly persons.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO told the members  that, as a firefighter, it                                                               
would make  his day  when arriving at  the scene of  a fire  at 2                                                               
a.m. and  the [alarm was  sounding] because he would  assume that                                                               
the alarm  was heard and that  the people were outside  the house                                                               
and individuals could be accounted for.   However, at 2 a.m. with                                                               
no noise  and a  car in  the driveway,  there was  the assumption                                                               
that firefighters were facing a rescue.                                                                                         
Number 1577                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  read portions of  a letter of  support into                                                               
the record as follows:                                                                                                          
     Representative  Gatto, or  Carl, as  they used  to call                                                                    
     you in the Providence Emergency Department:                                                                                
     Alaska Safe  Kids supports your effort  to introduce CO                                                                    
     [carbon  monoxide]  detection  legislation  in  Alaska.                                                                    
     After  working in  Alaska nursing  for nearly  38 years                                                                    
     and  being the  statewide  Alaska  Safe Kids  Coalition                                                                    
     coordinator  for  15  years,  it  is  evident  that  CO                                                                    
     poisoning  is  a  preventable injury/death  for  Alaska                                                                    
     citizen.     It  is  also  evident   that  the  general                                                                    
     population   knows   little   about  how   to   protect                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  noted that  he will skip  a portion  of the                                                               
letter and proceed to the conclusion portion as follows:                                                                        
     Moving  to  legislation  really  does  bring  the  same                                                                    
     deserved  attention to  CO as  we now  have with  smoke                                                                    
     Thank you, Carl, for your work.                                                                                            
     Peggy Hayashi, RN                                                                                                          
     State Coordinator                                                                                                          
     Alaska Safe Kids Coalition                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO concluded his  remarks by asking the members                                                               
to vote yes on this bill.                                                                                                       
Number 1524                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  commented that  he likes the  entire concept                                                               
and believes it is a good bill.   As a realtor in his other life,                                                               
he said he knows the importance  of smoke and fire detectors.  He                                                               
noted  that the  effective date  is  January 1,  2005, and  asked                                                               
whether a  friendly amendment might  be added such that  if title                                                               
[to a  property] changes between now  and 2005 or a  new lease is                                                               
executed,  then at  that time  a carbon  monoxide detector  would                                                               
have to be installed.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  responded that  when the  initial smoke                                                               
detector legislation  was passed in  1975, it was  made effective                                                               
January 1st of the following year.   He told the members he would                                                               
consider Representative  Lynn's suggestion a  friendly amendment.                                                               
He  added  that  he  would   defer  to  Representative  Gatto  on                                                               
including other fossil fuels in the  bill.  Perhaps this would be                                                               
an amendment too.                                                                                                               
Number 1453                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO commented  that these  amendments could  be                                                               
worked out and brought back  before the committee on Friday, when                                                               
the bill would be passed from committee.                                                                                        
Number 1436                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  questioned the  amendment Representative                                                               
Lynn  suggested,  and asked  if  there  is  adequate time  for  a                                                               
transition period.  He asked the  members to consider that if the                                                               
time for  enforcement is  accelerated, then there  needs to  be a                                                               
rational basis.  There should  be some implicit time during which                                                               
the public is given notification of the change in law.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN  replied  that  he believes  that  could  be                                                               
worked out.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  said he believes these  issues could be                                                               
worked  out  and a  common  solution  could  be included  in  the                                                               
[resulting proposed] committee substitute (CS).                                                                                 
Number 1382                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked  if there is any  intention to do                                                               
public service announcements.                                                                                                   
[Chair Anderson  turned the gavel  over to  Representative Gatto;                                                               
although he  was referred  to as Vice  Chair, technically  he was                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO commented that  he has been approached about                                                               
public  service announcements  for the  Matanuska-Susitna valley.                                                               
He added that he would inquire about that.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG commented  that  on page  2, Section  4,                                                               
there is the concept of a  qualified dwelling unit.  He said what                                                               
he believes  the sponsors  are trying to  do is  exempt dwellings                                                               
with  electric heat.   Representative  Rokeberg told  the members                                                               
that he is concerned about that  because of the definition of the                                                               
source of heating  element within a dwelling unit.   He commented                                                               
that this would amend the  fire protection statute, AS 18.70, and                                                               
the landlord-tenant Act, AS 34.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG responded that  the only place the terms                                                               
"qualified dwelling  unit" appears,  if this  bill passes,  is in                                                               
these new sections  and nowhere else.  That term  only appears in                                                               
AS 18.70.095(a) and AS 18.70.095(b).                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  replied that his interpretation  of that                                                               
would  mean that  any "qualified  dwelling unit"  would mean  any                                                               
premise where someone  could bed down for the night  and that has                                                               
a  non-electric  source of  heating.    He  asked  if it  is  the                                                               
sponsors'  intention  to  put these  [devices]  in  every  hotel,                                                               
motel, and bed and breakfast in the state.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  commented that  most of these  kinds of                                                               
facilities would  have electric  heat or  forced air,  not fossil                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG pointed  out that  this would  amend the                                                               
fire protection  code.  This  bill says that every  dwelling unit                                                               
in the state will have to have a CO detection device in it.                                                                     
Number 1157                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   asked  a  hypothetical   question  of                                                               
Representative Gatto.   Is there a danger of  CO [poisoning], for                                                               
instance,  in  a motel  that  has  a  hot  water furnace  in  the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO replied  that there is not.   He stated that                                                               
a generating plant  that uses fossil fuels to  run turbines would                                                               
have  some danger;  however,  once the  electricity  gets to  the                                                               
[dwelling] there  is no  danger of CO  [poisoning].   There would                                                               
have to be some kind of  interface with combustion products for a                                                               
danger to exist.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG questioned whether  a better term should                                                               
be used instead of "service."                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG  commented  that  a new  term  is  being                                                               
introduced   into  statutes,   "qualified   dwelling",  and   the                                                               
interpretation of  that could be  infinite.  He told  the members                                                               
that his interpretation  is that this would be  applicable to all                                                               
types of dwelling  units.  Representative Rokeberg  added that he                                                               
is not sure that is appropriate.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG replied  that was not the  intent of the                                                               
legislation.   The  intent is  to only  address [dwelling  units]                                                               
that CO could get into.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  asked what  the difference is  between a                                                               
6-room bed and breakfast and a 600-room hotel.                                                                                  
Number 1060                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  replied that  with  the  amount of  carbon                                                               
monoxide produced in a furnace that  has access to a room, if the                                                               
building  is  large and  the  room  is  remote,  a lot  could  be                                                               
satisfied  with  a   smoke  detector  in  the   vicinity  of  the                                                               
combustion [source].                                                                                                            
Number 1032                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG stated that the  bill would be a waste of                                                               
money unless  it was better  defined.  He questioned  whether the                                                               
bill would have any effect on public safety.                                                                                    
Number 1003                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  replied that  the point was  well taken                                                               
and  the  bill   will  be  worked  on  further   as  a  committee                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG asked  if  Representative Gruenberg  was                                                               
aware of the  consequence of failing to install a  CO detector in                                                               
one's home.   He stated that it was a  class B misdemeanor, which                                                               
would  criminalize  everyone  "in  the  state."    He  questioned                                                               
whether this should be the intent of the bill.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO stated  that many  people are  criminalized                                                               
for not having smoke detectors,  but it gives the fire inspectors                                                               
heavier weight to  be able to say, "By the  way, that's illegal."                                                               
He gave  further examples  of ways  that people  are criminalized                                                               
under laws that are not enforced.                                                                                               
Number 0845                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  repeated that laws are  enacted that are                                                               
not enforced.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG    stated   that   he    agreed   with                                                               
Representative  Gatto in  that  this  law will  save  lives.   He                                                               
stated that  he was not aware  of any prosecution but  it has the                                                               
force of law behind it.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG called  this  bill a  "paper tiger"  and                                                               
stated that  he didn't think that  it was a proper  sanction; bad                                                               
laws that are not enforced are meaningless.                                                                                     
Number 0787                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG responded that  he thought the fact that                                                               
the fire  department could come in  and state that not  having CO                                                               
detectors is  illegal is an  important point because  most people                                                               
want to obey  the law.  He  stated that he would hate  to see the                                                               
carbon  monoxide  requirement not  put  in  with smoke  detectors                                                               
because that would say that it is not as important.                                                                             
Number 0736                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN stated  that  he  lives in  a  motel with  a                                                               
kitchenette  and  that  such rooms  would  need  carbon  monoxide                                                               
Number 0691                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO stated  his  intention to  hold  HB 351  in                                                               
order to make revisions.                                                                                                        
Number 0673                                                                                                                     
SKIP SCHIEL,  Cambridge, Massachusetts, testified in  favor of HB
351.   He stated that  he lived in  a 24-unit apartment  that was                                                               
heated   by  oil   and  that   many  people,   himself  included,                                                               
experienced  CO poison-like  symptoms.   He  explained that  even                                                               
though the  furnace was in  the basement,  all of the  units were                                                               
affected,  which is  a  good argument  for each  unit  to have  a                                                               
carbon monoxide detector.                                                                                                       
Number 0464                                                                                                                     
JOHN   BITNEY,   Lobbyist   for  Alaska   State   Home   Builders                                                               
Association,  spoke on  behalf  of  his organization's  unanimous                                                               
support of HB 351.                                                                                                              
Number 0416                                                                                                                     
TOM   KEMPTON,   Deputy   Chief,   Anchorage   Fire   Department,                                                               
Municipality of  Anchorage, spoke  in strong  support of  HB 351.                                                               
Since the tragic  carbon monoxide poisoning death  of the members                                                               
of  the   Arts  family,  his   fire  department  has   been  very                                                               
aggressively promoting  carbon monoxide  detectors, he said.   He                                                               
stated  that there  has  been  an increase  in  calls for  alarm-                                                               
sounding detectors, and  in response to these  calls, high levels                                                               
of carbon monoxide have been found in several homes.                                                                            
MR. KEMPTON further  explained the need for a  battery backup for                                                               
the detectors  because of  the number of  power outages  and gas-                                                               
fired  generators owned  by Alaskans.    He said  that often  the                                                               
generators are  not located outside of  the home, and that  is an                                                               
added risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.                                                                                       
Number 0302                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked if  Anchorage had a local ordinance                                                               
requiring carbon dioxide monitors.                                                                                              
MR. KEMPTON replied that it does  not.  The Anchorage assembly is                                                               
waiting for  the state to  see what it does  first, he said.   He                                                               
mentioned that  the Arts  family did not  have a  carbon monoxide                                                               
detector in their home.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG remarked that he  had heard that the Arts                                                               
family  had  a  detector  but   that  it  was  unplugged  due  to                                                               
MR. KEMPTON restated that the family  did not have a working unit                                                               
and explained  that there was  a sequence of events  which caused                                                               
the death.                                                                                                                      
Number 0148                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  stated that houses are  being built much                                                               
tighter these days and he wondered  if older houses had less of a                                                               
problem with carbon monoxide poisoning than the newer ones.                                                                     
MR.  KEMPTON replied  that  indoor air  quality  problems are  an                                                               
issue in Alaskan  homes because they are so  insulated.  However,                                                               
one  of  the states  with  the  highest  number of  incidents  is                                                               
Florida because  its homes are  so tightly insulated to  keep out                                                               
the heat.                                                                                                                       
Number 0030                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  asked questions about  combination smoke                                                               
and  fire  detectors,  their  costs,  and  whether  they  can  be                                                               
MR.  KEMPTON answered  that carbon  monoxide detectors  typically                                                               
cost $20  to $40  and there  are all kinds  of combinations.   He                                                               
recommended one with a battery backup.                                                                                          
TAPE 04-2, SIDE A                                                                                                             
Number 0052                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  asked what the current  requirements for                                                               
smoke detectors were and what range they covered.                                                                               
MR. KEMPTON  replied that he  was not familiar with  local codes,                                                               
but the Anchorage Fire Department  recommends that people provide                                                               
a  smoke  detector  on  every level  of  their  home,  especially                                                               
outside sleeping areas  where alarms could be heard.   He stated,                                                               
"We  don't   recommend  that   people  install   carbon  monoxide                                                               
detectors in a garage where they would constantly go off."                                                                      
Number 0139                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO explained that he  had five detectors in his                                                               
house and gave  their locations.  He stated that  even the one in                                                               
the garage works well.                                                                                                          
MR.  KEMPTON  cautioned  that  people   sometimes  pull  out  the                                                               
batteries if  they get too  many nuisance  alarms.  He  said that                                                               
the new  smoke detectors have  new technology on them  like pause                                                               
Number 0312                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  asked  whether  Mr.  Kempton  knew  if                                                               
insurance companies give reductions  for having a carbon monoxide                                                               
and/or smoke detector.                                                                                                          
MR.  KEMPTON answered  that he  was  not aware  of any  insurance                                                               
companies that  do.   He stated that  insurance companies  have a                                                               
waiver that  must be  signed requiring  smoke detectors,  but not                                                               
carbon monoxide detectors.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG referred  to page 2, lines 16  and 17 of                                                               
HB 351 that talks about gas  fuel, oil fuel, wood stoves. He said                                                               
that there  was nothing about coal  or fossil fuel.   He asked if                                                               
Mr. Kempton would recommend those be included, too.                                                                             
Number 0407                                                                                                                     
MR. KEMPTON replied  that that seemed reasonable  and agreed that                                                               
coal and fossil fuel should be included.                                                                                        
Number 0431                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  asked if  Mr. Kempton would  be willing                                                               
to work with the committee on language.                                                                                         
MR. KEMPTON replied that he would.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG asked  Mr.  Kempton if  he thought  the                                                               
language  on line  16, "contains  or is  serviced by",  should be                                                               
changed to  deal with  Representative Rokeberg's  earlier comment                                                               
about the 600-unit motel.                                                                                                       
Number 0473                                                                                                                     
MR. KEMPTON  answered that multi-resident  units present  quite a                                                               
burden on  the motel owner  to install  that many detectors.   He                                                               
said he thought  more discussion was needed on this  subject.  He                                                               
stated that the rooms may be protected by a zone detector.  Mr.                                                                 
Kempton agreed to help in this area, also.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO stated that HB 351 is being held over until                                                                
Friday when a proposed CS will be written.                                                                                      

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