© Jenelle Botts Photography, 2021
"I have a lot of mom guilt about this – and I think that's what spurred my activism in a lot of ways. How, as a mom, did I not understand the risk?
And the risk turned into reality on February 20, 2020 – when over 80 children under age 6, along with their teachers, were evacuated from the daycare. My two sons were among them. Most occupants were ill, many were hospitalized and attached to oxygen for hours, and at least one was carried out unconscious."
Nikki James Zellner, activist and mom
WHY ALL THE FUSS?
Despite the Commonwealth of Virginia adding building code in recent years making carbon monoxide detection mandatory in new buildings, including for educational purposes, it didn't apply to those built before 2015. This meant a majority of educational facilities in the Commonwealth of Virginia are not required to have CO alarms or detection systems on site. Which could lead to events like the one at my children's daycare.
The only way to make this mandate protection was by updating Virginia's Building Code – which required legislation to do.
But it can't stop with legislative changes, I soon learned.
As a community, we shouldn't be waiting on someone to be told to do something to know we NEED to do something. We all have the power and responsibility to make our educational spaces safer.
The stakeholders for this initiative are legislators, school systems, parents, educators, faculties and
education/health organizations. Understanding creates advocacy. Advocacy creates policy and change.