EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 20, 2014

Editorial: Tragic lessons

Tragedy can lead to tough lessons learned and, sometimes, new laws written.

Such was the case in 2005, when then Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signed Nicole’s Law, mandating carbon monoxide detectors in every Bay State home with “fossil-fuel burning equipment.”

Nicole was Nicole Garofalo, a 7-year-old Plymouth girl who died earlier that same year when her family home filled with the deadly gas.

Some 400 people die in this country every year from CO poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thousands more people are treated in emergency rooms for the same reason.

On Wednesday, three Plaistow residents were found dead, presumed victims of CO poisoning. A fourth person was unconscious, but alive. He was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital for treatment.

New Hampshire doesn’t have a law requiring CO detectors for older, single-family homes.

No law would have prevented these deaths.

The home did have a CO detector, but its battery had been removed.

There’s no blame here. It is, tragically and simply, a horrific accident.

But it might have been prevented.

That’s the intent behind Nicole’s Law, to save lives.

New Hampshire’s CO detector law only covers single-family homes when they’re newly built or substantially renovated.

Such laws are tough to enforce. Fire departments surely don’t have the time to knock on every door and demand proof of CO and smoke detectors. The presence or absence of detectors is noted by building inspectors and home inspectors when property changes hand.

Sometimes just having a law on the books is enough motivation for residents to comply.

The tragedy Wednesday is the worst kind of reminder to residents in every state. Carbon monoxide kills. It does so without smell, taste or warning — unless a working CO detector sounds and gives residents a chance to escape.

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