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Carbon monoxide detectors

Some of the many types of carbon monoxide detectors available for sale are pictured. LaPorte became the first Indiana community requiring carbon monoxide detectors in new residential construction. Other Northwest Indiana communities have not yet won approval for their ordinances from the Indiana Fire Prevention & Building Safety Commission.

The Porter County Board of Commissioners gave final approval earlier this month to a requirement that all new residential construction include carbon monoxide detectors.

But the necessary approval from the Indiana Fire Prevention & Building Safety Commission is anything but certain if the county has the same type of experience as other area communities that have voted to require the safety devices, including LaPorte, Chesterton and Michigan City.

LaPorte had to make three attempts earlier this year to win state approval for its ordinance, said Dot Kesling, founder of the Lindsey O'Brien Kesling Wishing Tree Foundation that advocates for carbon monoxide poisoning awareness.

While LaPorte eventually became the first community in Indiana requiring carbon monoxide detectors, the state commission has since denied Chesterton's attempt and tabled a proposal for amendments from Michigan City, Kesling said. Ordinances from Porter and St. Joseph counties are now in the pipeline and could be slated for the commission's Dec. 5 meeting.

By Wednesday, the state commission had not yet offered comment sought by The Times more than a week ago.

"They didn't have a basis for denial," Chesterton Fire Chief John Jarka said of the town's proposed ordinance.

Chesterton's proposed ordinance is the same as the one approved by the state for LaPorte, he said.

The LaPorte, Chesterton, Michigan City and Porter County proposals call for carbon monoxide detectors for new residential construction alone, Kesling said.

The St. Joseph County proposed ordinance also aims at new construction, but adds existing rentals, nursing homes and hotels/motels, she said.

The ordinances would apply to buildings that have attached garages, fireplaces and/or fossil fuel-burning (including natural gas or LP gas) appliances, Kesling said.

Indiana is one of just four states without a statewide requirement for carbon monoxide detectors, Kesling said. After making a failed attempt to change that at the state level, she said, she began working locally and has built up a growing force from the north end of the state.

"They have to quit passing the buck on those people least educated on carbon monoxide," she said.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas emitted from furnaces, gas water heaters, stoves, fireplaces and exhaust from automobiles, generators and other gasoline-powered engines, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Jarka said carbon monoxide poisoning is not noticed until after it has already impacted someone's health, with children and pets the first to suffer.

Kesling said some of the resistance to the local ordinances has come from builders.

Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said the proposed requirement just makes sense.

"It's basic safety and welfare of the people in Porter County," she said.


Porter/LaPorte county reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.