Slap Hefty Fines On CO Law Violators

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The deadline for Ocean City dwelling units to have carbon monoxide detectors in place was February, two years after the new law was enacted. It has become obvious this summer that deadline has come and gone without everyone complying.

Consequently, we think it’s time for Ocean City to hold random pop inspections to ensure the town’s carbon monoxide detector law is being followed as it’s intended. Clearly, there are violators out there, and they need to be subjected to that $1,000-a-day fine outlined in the ordinance, and it needs to be retroactive to February. That will get these callous business owners’ attention. If they don’t care enough human life to spend a couple thousand dollars to install carbon monoxide detectors in the required areas, we think the city should charge them multiple thousands of dollars in fines.

Early this summer, at the El Capitan condominium building, tragedy was averted when a family of six was able to escape before being poisoned to death. The source of the carbon monoxide leak in that case was a pool’s heating system. The owner of the individual unit in the El Capitan was reportedly fined $2,000 for not having a carbon monoxide detector.

This week, multiple deaths could have occurred at the Americana Hotel. We will never know how close that was to happening. What’s most concerning is the hotel did not even have carbon monoxide detectors in the fuel-burning areas, let alone installed in each room near and around them.

At this week’s Mayor and Council, the fact two high-profile carbon monoxide incidents have occurred this summer was broached. Officials seem adamant on following through with enforcement in a timely fashion.

Councilman Doug Cymek is particularly bothered because he was on the scene Tuesday when the first guest was being ushered out of the hotel. ““I got to the scene as they were walking the first woman out of there, and I’ve never seen a person under the influence of carbon monoxide, but I will tell you that it was scary because she couldn’t even stand on her own,” he said. “… We have to stop these horror stories because it’s getting ridiculous.”

Cymek is right. This is completely avoidable. These business owners must follow the law. They need to simply treat carbon monoxide detectors as they do smoke detectors. Sure, it’s probably an expensive endeavor to equip an entire hotel with hard-wire detectors as well as all common areas, but it needs to happen. Check that, it needs to have already happened, according to the town law. Why have an ordinance if it’s not going to be enforced?

To its credit, the Fire Marshals Office was pro-active in spreading the word about this law before it was enacted and immediately after. Nonetheless, absolute compliance has not happened. Not it’s time to start issuing fines and no breaks should be given. If that’s anti-business, then so be it.

We understand it’s a manpower nightmare to check thousands of hotel rooms and condominium units in a matter of months. City Manager Dennis Dare said the city would begin a three-block survey of required units next week. If the city is unable to complete this onerous task of canvassing the town, we think the council should consider outsourcing this job. It’s going to cost money, of course, but this is a safety issue and could potentially be a public relations disaster if mass casualties ever occur as a result of detectors not being installed. That will keep people from coming here, and it would be understandable.

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