Can journalists help solve our CO problem in schools?
I believe they can – but only when the right questions get asked. Carbon monoxide events are not a one-and-done spot news story – and shouldn't be treated as such.
Was there carbon monoxide detection on site?
This is the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION you should answer in your story: was there detection on site at this school?
If there was detection:
- What kind of detection devices were on site (integrated detection system, plug in or battery operated alarm, or monitor only)
- How were authorities/first responders alerted? (started beeping, alerted in office on central dashboard, alerted authorities directly?) – or did they not alert?
If no detection on site:
- Why not? Not required to due to law or code, owner negligence?
- Were there also fuel-fired systems on site? (like a furnace, boiler, HVAC)
What's the key data related to the event?
This is also really important data – as THIS sets the scene and breaks down the information clearly for councils, health/safety investigators and concerned stakeholders.
- Total # evacuated (and was it full evacuation or partial)
- Demographic breakdown: adults vs. children
- # treated on scene, # taken to hospital
- Square footage of property, # of levels and kind of school
- # of areas within that property experiencing issue
- The attributed source of the CO exposure - incredibly important to list this or simply state (cause unknown at time of publishing)
- Were symptoms being experienced at an earlier time
- When were authorities alerted
- When and how were parents notified (or were they)
- PPM readings of CO meters (firefighters will have this information) - so important to list this in the article as this shows the true level of poisoning occurring on the property
- Quotes from victims, as well as parents on how they were communicated with, their experience
Who's Accountable/What's Next
- Now that the alarm has sounded, what are the school's plans when it comes to CO in their school; if related to systems, what will they change?
What's your Building Code and State Law?
While ICC/IFC and NFPA make recommendations – these recommendations aren't always adopted by localities, states in terms of the state's specific building codes.
In your story, you will need to reiterate:
- Are CO detectors required by law in schools/daycares in your state?
If not, has legislation ever been introduced (and when did it fail)?
- How does the building code adopted in your state/city address carbon monoxide detection in new and/or existing buildings?
What are the Maintenance and Inspection Frequencies?
If this CO exposure is tied to a piece of equipment or system within the property (or on top of/next to the property):
- when was the last time that equipment was inspected (also, what's its inspection frequency in general)
- Who's responsible for inspecting it and maintaining it?
- How old is the equipment?
- Have any emergency responses happened at this location previously that impact health/life safety due to equipment used on or maintenance of the property?