NATIONAL REPORT—Late December was not a good time for an upscale hotel in southern Florida. A 26-year-old man lost his life in a guestroom. The cause of death: carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. The man’s father nearly died from the silent killer 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 is 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 CO and were taken to a local hospital for treatment.
Unfortunately, what happened in December in Florida is not a first for the lodging industry. Guests have died from carbon monoxide in other hotels as well. In 2005, three women died from CO poisoning in a garage at a motel after leaving their car running.
According to SafePlace Corp., Wilmington, Del., CO poisoning claims 300 lives in the United States each year and sends another 10,000 to hospital rooms for treatment.
How is Carbon Monoxide Produced?
Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels—natural gas, propane, gasoline, oil, kerosene, wood and charcoal—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 CO 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 and frequently perform PM on all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems to avoid CO buildup. Make sure obvious areas of vulnerability such as parking garages are well ventilated. Ventilation fans should be working properly. Never permit vehicles to idle in a confined space. Keep idling vehicles away from outside air intakes of HVAC equipment. Educate your engineers. Include your alarms in your PM checks.
Mintek’s Leading PM Solution
Since 1999, Dunedin, Fla.-based Mintek Mobile Data Solutions has helped hundreds of hotels throughout the United States and Canada automate their PM processes, including those covering areas in the hotel where CO can be produced. Mintek’s WinTrack PM software, which incorporates handheld devices and bar coding, ensures that PMs, rounds, inspections and work orders are accomplished on time. The result: a much safer operation.
WinTrack PM replaces inefficient paper-based processes still found in many hotels. Bar codes are discreetly placed on every item needing a PM—a boiler or CO detector, for example. When an engineer scans a bar code, it prompts him to answer previously determined questions. After the PM has been completed, the bar code is scanned again. Each step is recorded within WinTrack PM.
Mintek’s system adds accountability to the PM process because managers know exactly when an engineer was at a piece of equipment, what was recorded, and how long the engineer was there. WinTrack PM automates PM scheduling and streamlines the work order process. Work orders can be generated automatically through the handheld based on answers provided by engineers. WinTrack PM also tracks parts information for each item needing checked, as well as the costs associated with parts and equipment replacement.
WinTrack PM can be used throughout a hotel—not only for expensive equipment but also for guestroom inspections. If a meter reading is out of range, WinTrack PM will generate a warning message. If a PM becomes overdue, it is flagged within WinTrack PM. Mintek’s Maintenance Portal centralizes reporting so that work can be monitored from anywhere there is Internet access.
The Importance of Detectors
Carbon monoxide should be the No. 1 indoor health concern at your property. Do you have detectors installed in your guestrooms? In other areas? If not, why? How can you sleep well at night if you are not doing all you can to protect your guests and staff from this silent, invisible danger?
Carbon monoxide detectors are widely available and there are several types on the market. A CO detector can provide added protection, but is not a substitute for proper use and upkeep of fuel-burning appliances that produce CO. Purchase only CO detectors that meet or exceed the requirements of the current UL standard 2034. Install a CO detector in the immediate proximity of every separate sleeping area in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s published installation instructions. Make sure the detector is not obstructed by furniture or draperies.
SafePlace recommends that CO detector users always follow manufacturer’s published testing instructions. Using a test button, some detectors test whether the alert circuitry as well as the technology used to sense CO is working, while the test button on other detectors only tests whether the alert circuitry is working. Be sure to select only CO detectors that incorporate technology for testing of both the alert circuitry and the CO sensor.
Gary Gebhart, director of engineering at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, says his hotel performs PMs on its CO detectors twice a year. They are located close to the hotel’s water heaters, in the pool equipment room where there are also heaters, and on the exhaust hoods in the main kitchen.
“In the kitchen, we always make sure the grease filters get cleaned on a regular basis,” Gebhart says. “In all areas, we make sure that all of our vents are clear, and that our flues are adequate in height and size.”
Accidents do occur but in instances of negligence, hotel owners and operators can be severely penalized. The family of the victim in southern Florida 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. Implement a PM program today to prevent carbon monoxide leaks. You will be very glad that you did.
Go to Mintek.