Legislature(2003 - 2004)
01/21/2004 03:16 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 firefighter. 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 backup. 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 possible. 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 themselves. 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 detectors. 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 not.] 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 fuel. 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 basement? 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 substitute. 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 detectors. 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 construction. 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 hardwired. 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 buttons. 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.