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.
So a carbon monoxide event has happened at a daycare, K-12 school, or college campus near you. Now what?
If you're a journalist, we recommend you first:
1. Understand why CO is so scary
2. Familiarize yourself with sources of CO in schools
3. Learn the five fast facts
5. Review our database for CO incidents in your coverage area
And then. now that you're more informed, ask these questions of your sources:
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?