Carbon monoxide, a killer, should be the No. 1 indoor air quality concern at your property. Do you have detectors installed in your guestrooms? In other areas? If not, why? How can you truly be a green hotel if you are not doing all you can to protect your guests and staff from this silent, invisible danger? Hundreds lose their lives each year after having been exposed to carbon monoxide buildup in an enclosed area. Just last month in Key West, Fla., a 26-year-old man died in a guestroom at an upscale hotel. The man’s father nearly died as well. He survived after being put on a ventilator.
According to a report in The Miami Herald, authorities concluded that the boiler room, which houses two boilers and two water tanks to heat water for the entire facility, was the source of the deadly fumes. The boiler room was located next to the room where the death occurred. Only six days before the incident, three guests staying in the same room fell sick from carbon monoxide and were taken to a local hospital for treatment.
It is obvious that proper steps were not taken to address the problem. If the hotel had taken the first incident seriously, or had practiced proper preventive maintenance all along, it is very likely that it would not be dealing with the death of a guest, thousands of dollars in lost revenue from being shut down, and a public relations and legal nightmare.
Unfortunately, what happened last month in Florida is not a first for the lodging industry. Guests have died from carbon monoxide in other hotels as well. An Internet search provided numerous examples. In 2005, three women died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a garage at a motel after leaving their car running.
How is Carbon Monoxide Produced?
Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete combustion of the fossil fuels—gas, oil, coal and wood—used in boilers, engines, gas fires, water heaters, solid fuel appliances and open fires. Dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide can accumulate as a result of poor installation, poor maintenance, or failure or damage to an appliance in service. It can also build up when rooms are poorly ventilated.
Carbon monoxide has no smell, taste or color. In today’s world of improved insulation and double glazing, it has become increasingly important to have good ventilation, maintain all appliances regularly, and to have absolutely reliable detector alarms installed. The alarms should be tested regularly and must provide a visual (for the hearing impaired) and audible warning immediately if there is a buildup of carbon monoxide to dangerous levels.
Don’t wait for state or local inspectors to check your facility. They usually have way too many buildings to inspect. Be proactive. Install detectors. Frequently check areas vulnerable to carbon monoxide buildup. Hire a professional if necessary. Implement a preventive maintenance plan so that heating appliances are checked regularly. Make sure obvious areas of vulnerability such as parking garages are well ventilated. Ventilation fans should be working properly. Educate your engineers. Check on your guests and look out for one another.
Accidents do occur but in instances of negligence, hotel owners and operators deserve to be penalized. The family of the victim in Key West and the families of all of the others that have been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning will have to live the rest of their lives without their loved ones. In memory of the victims and with thoughts of their families, do what you have to do to prevent carbon monoxide leaks. You will be very glad that you did.
As always, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (440) 243-2055. I look forward to hearing from you.