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Campus Life

Staying safe from carbon monoxide

Work to meet January 2007 deadline is under way

When Nicole’s Law, which requires carbon monoxide alarms in all Massachusetts residences, goes into effect on Friday, March 31, BU won’t be putting simple battery-operated devices throughout its residence halls. Instead, the University will begin a nine-month process of installing more reliable hardwired systems, which include 24/7 alarm monitoring, at the largest dorms.

The University demonstrated its awareness of the threat of carbon monoxide even before Nicole’s Law — named for a seven-year-old girl from Plymouth, Mass., who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in January 2005 — was signed last November.

“We’ve had a carbon monoxide monitoring program on campus, and this is an expansion,” says Peter Schneider, the executive director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety. “We’ve been tuned into this for quite a while — it’s something we’re keeping an eye on.” The current monitoring program has detectors in key buildings around campus, Schneider says, and a comprehensive campus-wide survey was done in February 2005.

The new law requires that all residential homeowners with equipment that burns fossil fuel, like boilers, furnaces, and hot water heaters, or with enclosed parking have carbon monoxide alarms on every floor and within 10 feet of each sleeping area.

Under the new legislation, buildings that will be fitted with a hardwired system have until January 2007 to comply with the regulations. At BU’s larger dorms, such as Warren Towers and those on West Campus, the detectors will be linked to the Facilities Management Emergency Desk, automatically notifying BU responders when high levels of the gas are detected.

Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, and the effects of exposure can range from mild illness to death. More than 500 people in the United States die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the leading cause of unintentional poisoning.