Utah churches not required to have carbon monoxide detectors

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Churches are not among the buildings required to have carbon monoxide detectors in Utah. (Photo: KUTV)

Colorless, odorless and tasteless, carbon monoxide has no warning signs.

When it escaped in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meeting house Sunday in Provo, Utah, it poisoned 60 people.

Such an event is entirely avoidable, but the government only requires carbon monoxide detection systems in some buildings. Churches aren't in that select group.

"The code is a minimum standard," Ted Black, the state's deputy chief fire marshal said. "If you don't feel safe in your home or your environment, you have the opportunity to change that."

Utah's fire code is written to protect the largest number of people from the most common safety problems in a way that is the least intrusive and expensive as possible. Most additions to the code over the years happen in response to a tragedy of some kind in Utah, or elsewhere in the U.S.

In general, you can count on carbon monoxide alarms being required in any place in which you're going to sleep that has gas-fired heating.

That includes hotels, hospitals, assisted living centers, daycare centers, and new homes. The only place they are required where people are awake is schools.

"There was an incident in a small community in southern Utah called Montezuma Creek in a school, that's what set it off," Black said. "There were some children who became sick."

State lawmakers — not the disaster prevention sector — responded, requiring about five years ago that all schools have carbon monoxide monitors.

The Granite School District has spent more than $1 million to comply with that mandate at its 90 campuses.

Will the incident in Provo prompt any changes? Black doesn't anticipate it. He said:

Life comes with a certain amount of risk. Take appropriate steps to protect you and your family. Then live your life.

The Church of Jesus Christ declined to comment on the matter Tuesday, a spokesman said only the church is investigating what happened in Provo.