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Published: Wednesday, 5/12/2004

Rossford may require installation of detectors


Rossford may soon join the ranks of area communities that require all homeowners to install smoke detectors, but with an uncommon additional requirement: carbon monoxide detectors may be required too.

A proposed ordinance requiring smoke detectors had been on a City Council agenda late last month, but it was withdrawn so that carbon monoxide detectors could be added to it.

Carolyn Eckel, chairman of the council's public safety committee, said the original proposal was inspired by news reports of a fire in the Cleveland area involving a rental property whose tenants complained that the landlord had refused to install smoke detectors.

"We thought [a law] would be beneficial to all the residents of Rossford, but especially those who rent," Mrs. Eckel said. "Sometimes people who rent don't have the control needed to get these things done."

Toledo began requiring smoke detectors a little more than a year ago. Edward Ciecka, Rossford's city administrator, said Rossford's proposed ordinance was modeled Maumee's. He said he knew of no area communities that also require carbon monoxide detectors. Mrs. Eckel said that was a logical extension of the smoke-detector rule.

"If we're considering passing legislation requiring smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors are right along the same lines," she said.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that displaces oxygen in the blood, causing asphyxia. In buildings, it is most commonly released by malfunctioning furnaces, and can overcome even awake people before they know what is happening.

The Toledo law and the Rossford proposal both require that smoke detectors be placed on each level of a dwelling and near each sleeping area. In new, renovated, or expanded buildings, the detectors are to be wired into the electrical system, with battery backup.

Tenants are forbidden to remove or disable the detectors under both the Toledo law and the Rossford proposal.

The Rossford proposal would require the owners of buildings with four or more dwelling units to maintain the smoke detectors, including battery replacement, while tenants would have that duty in buildings with three or fewer units. The Toledo law requires tenants to do all battery replacements, but otherwise assigns maintenance to landlords.

The potential penalty for a violation in Rossford would generally be lighter than provided for in the Toledo law, especially if a violation causes someone to be injured or killed.

The Rossford proposal establishes violations as fourth-degree misdemeanors, which under Ohio law are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $250. In Toledo, a first offense is a minor misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $150, but repeat offenses are third-degree misdemeanors.

And if someone is killed or suffers a serious injury, as defined by city law, during a fire in a non-complying dwelling unit, the owner or tenant, as appropriate, would face a first-degree misdemeanor penalty of up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

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