Carbon monoxide and hotels: A deadly mix

When we're sleeping, we're at our most vulnerable. And it can turn deadly within seconds by a silent killer -- carbon monoxide. It may be the last thing on your mind but the threat of CO should be the first. Right here in South Dakota, there is no legislation for carbon monoxide in hotels.

"You go to sleep. It puts you out to sleep. You stay asleep and then before you know it, you're gone," said Victor Rueb, Chief Engineer at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. In 2013, three people died within two months of each other in room 225 at the Blue Ridge Plaza Best Western Hotel in Boone, North Carolina. The cause -- carbon monoxide poisoning. Lethal mounts of CO leaked from an exhaust pipe in the drop ceiling just below the room. Federal law requires hotels install smoke detectors, but it doesn't require carbon monoxide detectors.


"It's your worst nightmare; its just something we don't want happening on our watch," said Ted Hilleson, Assistant General Manager at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. Sioux Falls Fire Marshall Dean Lanier says if there are several hotel guests with flu-like symptoms, there's a pretty good chance of carbon monoxide. "And having four or five people in a room or in different wings of a hotel being sick -- that would throw red flags for any first responder that you have a problem there," said Lanier.


It can be a silent killer.


"Carbon monoxide -- you can't really smell it, you can't see it. It actually doesn't have properties that necessarily makes it sink or rise so it tends to just float at about waist level," said Lanier. Following the deaths in North Carolina, the Best Western Hotel Chain made one big change. "Best Western mandated that every guest room has a CO detector so we installed them last year," said Hilleson.


Now every guest room at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls and across the US must have CO detectors. But what about other hotel chains? We called several -- the Holiday Inn and the Dakotah Lodge. They say all their hotels have CO detectors. Rueb says the detectors are checked on a regular basis at the Ramkota on a regular basis to make sure they are working properly.


"If it's not properly vented -- instead of going out of the building, it stays in the building and that's where CO comes from and then it starts seeping into wherever," said Rueb. I checked and found South Dakota does not have any carbon monoxide legislation in place. In fact, it is only one of a handful of states without any.


We asked out state lawmakers this weekend if this concerns them. The overwhelming response is that it's not on their radar, yet.


"There may be an issue out there. I haven't heard about it from any of my constituents or any city counselors, county counselors. I've got some friends in the hotel business - haven't heard about it," said Rep. Mark Mickelson. Nest time you go on vacation, don't be afraid to ask a few simple questions.


"What kind of protection do they have inside their hotels? Do they have a fire alarm system? Do they have full CO detection throughout the building?" said Lanier. "What's best for the guests is what we are concerned with so we're more than happy to comply with it," said Hilleson.


If you are going on vacation and you're not sure the hotel you're staying at has carbon monoxide detectors, you can purchase a portable one for less than $50.

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