What you may not be aware of when it comes to carbon monoxide in schools...but need to be
A building does not need a fuel-fired system
to have a CO exposure incident.
While boilers, furnaces and HVAC systems are the #1 source of CO incidents in schools, they're not the only source. A growing percentage of emergency CO-related incidents in schools are caused by things like snow- or nest-blocked vents, propane-powered cleaning equipment, idling vehicles and improperly ventilated construction areas using gas-powered equipment.
At this time, most educators and faculty nationwide are not required to complete any kind of carbon monoxide awareness, prevention or situational training.
If there is no installed detection, or if detection devices are malfunctioning, front line staff such as teachers and maintenance teams ARE the only ones who can recognize a CO issue as it's occurring. Teachers will see changes in children's typical behavior and will be the first to see a "group" symptom emerging and where it's happening. It is imperative they know what they're looking for, how to respond, and who to alert when it comes to CO.
Due to current state and federal laws, as well as non-uniform building codes being adopted or enforced across all states, a majority of schools throughout the U.S. do not have CO detection on site because they're not required to
It has been proven that if school's aren't required to do it, they often don't. Budget constraints, aging buildings and equipment, and increasing demands of curriculum and training often mean that the CO conversation is left to maintenance personnel and risk managers. However, many staff, parents and community members who occupy the building are under the impression their health and life safety are being protected – when it's not.
Not all detection devices are created equal, and most code recommendations are the bare minimum for life safety. You can still suffer short term and long term health issues if choosing detection that isn't designed for the specific needs of your school and space.
There are key differences between carbon monoxide monitors, stand-alone alarms and integrated detection systems. When it comes to children's safety, you want to invest in the devices that will protect their development – not just save their life. What a school should be using for CO protection based on its unique size, age, systems and layout is often far greater than the minimum recommendations for safety made by code councils, local code or state law. It is imperative to understand the unique needs of your school and its occupants – and install detection devices accordingly.
Children are at higher risk than adults when exposed to carbon monoxide and experience more long-term side effects
Due to their age and current stage of development, children will respond to CO exposure differently than the adults in the room with them. Children have higher metabolism and breathe faster, meaning they will be inhaling and distributing carbon monoxide more often. Their developing minds are still in the growth stage, and exposure to poisonous toxin can change neurological response and organ development for the long term. Younger children, in particular, are unable to communicate physical issues being experience, and it is not abnormal for them to appear drowsy and fussy.