Local school districts review carbon monoxide detector regulations

MARION, SC (WBTW) – Concerns over a possible carbon monoxide leak at West Florence High School at the end of January prompted the school district and some other school district to evaluate regulations regarding carbon monoxide detectors. News13 has also learned one local school district plans to instal carbon monoxide detectors although it is not required by law.
The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR), which oversees the state Fire Marshal’s Office explained whether detectors are required or not really comes down to how new the school is.
Luke Giddings who is a student at South Florence High School says he’d like to see that changed. He says he’s been talking with some state lawmakers about a proposal to make carbon monoxide detectors required in a lot more South Carolina Schools.
“They’re looking into it and making it a regulation. I think they’re just trying to make sure that if any school has a connection to gas, they have carbon monoxide detectors,” Luke explained.
Giddings became interested in the current state rules after a teacher reported carbon monoxide at West Florence on January 31st. Some students and parents expressed concerns about exposure, so Florence School District One then put carbon monoxide detectors in the school, but not any others. At first Giddings was concerned about other schools in the district not getting carbon monoxide detectors right away, but after getting a little more information he says he undertstand the districts decision to act immediately and West Florence and then take time to plan for installation at other schools.
Having carbon monoxide detectors at West Florence – or most schools in the state – is not required in South Carolina. Only five states require them in schools by law.
The report from a Georgia task force may shed some light on why that is. Among other things, it mentions that carbon monoxide usually only kills if people are exposed where they sleep… That some schools have no possible sources of carbon monoxide… And that recent building codes do address carbon monoxide detection.
In south carolina it is the most recently adopted building code that does require carbon monoxide detectors in schools – but only those built since about 2015. In our area only the newest schools in Horry County have to have them.
“Anywhere there are fossil fuels, not only here in a science lab, but in a kitchen area or a boiler room are mainly where you would see carbon monoxide detectors,” explained the Horry County School District spokesperson Lisa Bourcier.
The detectors have to be near the potential source of the carbon monoxide, and they’re complex systems integrated into the fire detection system. That means they can also be expensive.
Nonetheless, the scare at West Florence has prompted administrators in Marion County Schools to think about adding the detectors, although the schools certainly aren’t new enough for it to be required.
“We got some information from Florence as to the type of detectors that they’re using. We’re also doing some research on our own,” said Director of Operations Leon Sturkey. “We want to make sure that even with the older facilities that we’re being proactive – that we have everything that we need in order to ensure the safety of our children.”
Luke would like to see other districts take that initiative but thinks it will take an update to the state requirement for that to happen.
“Hopeful is a big word and is a strong word, but I am hopeful,” he said.
In the meantime, leaders with Florence School District One tell us they do plan to address carbon monoxide detectors at the district’s other two high schools as well.
Also, any schools in the state that undergo major renovations may also be required to install carbon monoxide detectors to meet the new building code.

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