Group aims to get carbon monoxide detectors in schools

WEIRTON – A movement started to protect area students could soon spread throughout West Virginia.

On Tuesday, representatives of the Seeing Beyond Foundation were joined by local school officials and state legislators to announce an effort to require carbon monoxide detectors in all of West Virginia’s schools.

The legislation was announced during a gathering at the Mary H. Weir Public Library.

It has been a dream of Harold “Bubba” Miller, of the Seeing Beyond Foundation – a group originally established to assist those with vision loss – and started in Weirton with the donation of carbon monoxide detectors to Weirton’s St. Paul Grade School less than a year ago.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas which can only be detected with a monitoring device.

Miller set off on his mission after hearing news reports of carbon monoxide leaks in a school in Georgia in 2012. He later discovered that while West Virginia law does require carbon monoxide detectors in hotels, motels, daycares and other facilities, schools have been absent from the regulations.

“Right now, there are 45 states that do not require CO detectors in schools,” Miller said.

State Sen. Rocky Fitzsimmons, D-Wheeling, agrees with the need for a new law, and is planning to introduce legislation to address the issue when the Legislature meets in next year’s regular session.

“Carbon monoxide is one of the most underappreciated dangers to our most precious resource; our children,” Fitzsimmons said. “I thought it was an appropriate time to review our laws.”

Fitzsimmons noted approximately 450 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year, with more than 200,000 individuals hospitalized. He said he will be spending the next few months meeting with experts to find the best way to address the issue.

While there has been no requirement in West Virginia, Hancock County Schools Superintendent Suzan Smith noted such measures already have been taken voluntarily in Hancock County.

“Our elementary schools already have the detectors,” Smith said, adding the goal is to install carbon monoxide detectors in the county’s middle and high schools in the coming weeks.

Miller said he also has plans to work with Brooke County officials to get carbon monoxide detectors in their schools.

Also on hand Tuesday were Dels. Randy Swartzmiller and Ronnie Jones, both D-Hancock.

“We looked at it as a great partnership project,” Swartzmiller said. “We want to be the pilot county and lead by example.”