Home Fire News Should carbon monoxide detectors be mandatory in restaurants?

Should carbon monoxide detectors be mandatory in restaurants?


Diners at a Clemmons restaurant last weekend became sick because of a carbon-monoxide leak. Thanks to some quick action from an off-duty firefighter, the restaurant was evacuated and those who experienced illness were treated.

Fortunately, such incidents are rare. But one is too many. We urge legislators to make carbon monoxide detectors mandatory in restaurants, just as they are in hotels and motels.

The Clemmons incident occurred during a birthday party in the special events room of the River Ridge Taphouse, the Journal’s Jenny Drabble reported. One of the participants, off-duty firefighter Lonnie Wimmer, noticed that people were starting to feel sick. Some had headaches and some felt nauseous. There was some vomiting.

Wimmer also began to feel ill. Fortunately, he recognized the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and notified the fire department and emergency personnel. The restaurant was evacuated.

Thirty-one diners were treated on the scene and 14 went to the hospital.

The leak was eventually traced to a heating unit, Lewisville Fire Department Assistant Chief Steve Williams told the Journal.

“We are extremely confident that was the main source of the leak,” Williams told the Journal. “The heating unit for that room malfunctioned and stopped burning cleanly, which can happen to any of those units.”

The restaurant quickly had the leak fixed and opened for business last Sunday morning, restaurant manager Dawn Vanorden told the Journal.

“Everything’s good, we fixed it that night,” she said. “Everyone’s safe.”

It doesn’t appear the restaurant did anything wrong. The restaurant did not have a carbon monoxide detector. They’re required in hotels and motels, but they’re not required in restaurants.

We’re grateful for the presence and quick thinking of the off-duty firefighter, Wimmer. This could have been much worse.

Carbon monoxide is very dangerous. It disrupts blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen through the body, and inhaling too much can be lethal. The level in the restaurant spiked to six times the normal amount, officials told the Journal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that between 1999 and 2010, an average of 430 people died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States.

There have been some deadly incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning in our area, like in 2013 when a couple from Longview, Wash., Daryl and Shirley Jenkins, died in a room in the Best Western hotel in Boone. Jeffrey Lee Williams, an 11-year-old boy, died later that year in the same room before a police investigation revealed that deadly levels of carbon monoxide had seeped in from a corroded exhaust pipe. After that tragedy, the legislature moved quickly to toughen laws for carbon monoxide detectors in hotel and motel rooms.

Legislators should make carbon monoxide detectors mandatory in restaurants. The gas is difficult to detect, sometimes until it’s too late.

We’re glad Wimmer was there, and appreciate the quick response from the restaurant. But more needs to be done. This is serious business.

wsjeditorial@wsjournal.comor send letters to the editor at letters @wsjournal.com.

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