OCEAN CITY – Many local hardware stores have seen a substantial spike in sales of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in the last two weeks, and a few of them are reportedly having trouble keeping them on the shelves.
One could deduce a few things from reports from local hardware stores who say they’ve noticed an increase in their CO detector sales since the recent leak that forced the evacuation of the Americana hotel on 10th Street two weeks ago.
On one hand, town officials look to the report as positive sign that property owners are finally taking notice to the city’s 2007 ordinance that requires detectors in all multi-family dwelling units and units with fuel burning equipment.
“It’s a good sign, and means that the message is finally starting to get through to people who may have been procrastinating a bit,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “We know the message was delivered, but apparently some didn’t pay attention to the message.”
On the other hand, one could assume that the recent awareness created by the unfortunate situation at the Americana, which saw three people treated for CO exposure, forced the hotel to shut-down and earn a $10,000 fine for non-compliance of the town’s law, has shown that the spike in sales reveals just how many property owners were essentially without a CO detector, and thus, breaking the law.
“I see it as a positive thing rather than a negative one,” said Meehan. “Any story like we saw with the Americana sometimes scares people into over-preparing themselves or to just simply make sure they are in compliance. Either way, we want the detectors to be there, so there’s a good side to this, no matter how you look at it.”
It should also be noted that the spike in CO detector sales have been more on a personal scale, rather than detectors that would be used by larger public facilities like hotels.
“One day we looked and the section for CO detectors was just totally cleaned out,” said Leon Howard of Rommel’s Ace Hardware on 68th Atreet in Ocean City. “Most of the ones we are selling are the battery powered and plug-in detectors, as opposed to the direct line combination smoke/CO detectors that would be used in bigger buildings.”
Howard, who says the detectors retail between $20 and $40, are usually not the ones that would be installed by a contractor in hotels. With that said, however, Howard conceded that it appeared that some were purchased could be used for spaces larger than residential properties.
“Some people when they see something on the news or read about it in the papers, they become more concerned and buy something as a result,” said Tim Monroe of Fenwick Trustworthy Hardware. “I think that’s why we’ve probably seen a 15-20 percent increase in sales.”
Others in the hardware industry projected the increase to be a bit more than what it actually turned out to be, as in the case of Montego Bay True Value store, which is in an area with a lot of new buildings.
“I thought we would be way up, but we are holding pretty much the same as we always do,” said Calvin Aydelotte. “I just don’t think any of the owners are here right now, as they are all renting their properties out. So, they’ll probably just let it ride until next spring.”
Meehan says that the town’s goal in this situation has been to “deliver the message and get people to comply with the law” and claims the city has done so by placing notices in semi-annual newsletters and in water, tax and other various bills.
Still, Jim Murphy of Adkins Hardware on 54th Street believes that there are a lot of people, most likely the seasonal residents and transient second homers, who don’t know what they need to do to comply.
“I just don’t think people realize that it’s a law,” said Murphy, whose store is reporting an almost 40-percent increase in CO detector sales in the last two weeks. “Some people just don’t pay attention to anything until something bad happens.”