Inside any home, danger looms when an invisible threat could sicken all those who come in contact with it.
The threat has the ability to cause nausea, headaches and in, worst-case scenarios, death. The culprit? Carbon monoxide.
In order to prevent the odorless, colorless gas from poisoning people, a law passed in California last year mandated that homes have a carbon monoxide detector installed by July 1. The law requires owners of all existing single-family homes with an attached garage or a fossil-fuel source to obtain a detector.
“Between 700 and 800 people throughout the nation have died because of carbon monoxide poisoning,” San Diego Deputy Chief Fire Marshall Doug Perry said at a press conference.
Perry estimated that nearly 90 percent of the homes in California do not have carbon monoxide detectors. By Friday, though, all homes will be required to have one, thanks to the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act. Newly constructed dwellings and homes being sold are required to have the detectors as well.
Apartments and condos will not be required to have the detectors until 2013, according to Perry.
Enforcement will be difficult, since fire inspectors cannot enter a home unless invited, according to officials. Property owners who haven't installed a detector could receive fines up to $200.
“I urge anyone to go wherever you have to go and buy a carbon monoxide detector,” said Elizabeth Bryan, a survivor of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Bryan and her family nearly died after being exposed to carbon monoxide a few years ago. She said the devices are simple to purchase.
“Safety is absolutely critical in the home,” said J.C. Thomas, fire preparedness manager for San Diego Gas & Electric.
Thomas said SDG&E will check carbon monoxide detectors for no cost. He insisted that it's important to check the devices often as well.
Perry said that if anyone believes a home has a carbon monoxide leak, they should leave the house immediately and call for assistance.
Store such as Target, Home Depot and other major retailers sell the alarms for between $20-$50.