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issue: March 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

A Time to Play it Safe

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by Thomas F. Huntington, Chairman, Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA)

Safety continues to come first in the gas appliance industries. I am grateful to APPLIANCE for giving me the opportunity to discuss a matter of importance to all of us, business people, journalists and consumers alike-that is the matter of safety. I'm proud to say that safety has always come first with GAMA's industries.

This isn't just a high-minded catchphrase. Before profits, before growth and expansion into new markets, before development of new technology, safety has been and remains of paramount importance. If consumers can't rely on our industries' products to operate safely in their homes and businesses, then we won't be selling many products. And the simple, admirable fact is that our industries have an outstanding safety record. History makes the case for us.

Nevertheless, incidents still sometimes do occur. Improper installation, misuse or lack of maintenance of gas appliances can increase the risk of exposing building occupants to excessive levels of carbon monoxide (CO). There are also other potential sources of CO besides gas appliances that consumers must be aware of, as noted below. Our industries continue to work together to reduce these risks.

That is why I am pleased that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) joined with GAMA on the occasion of the switch from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time this past October 30th to kick-off our campaign to educate the public on the need for CO and smoke alarms in every home in the country.

In a joint CPSC/GAMA news release you can find posted on GAMA's website, CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton said, "Working smoke and CO alarms can help protect your family from a fire or carbon monoxide (CO) hazard in your home. Take the time to put fresh batteries in your alarms. That simple step could save your life."

I heartily commend the chairman's advice. CO is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas that consumers cannot see or smell, and it is vital that consumers be aware of all the potential sources for CO in the home—sources such as an automobile engine running in an attached garage, a portable gasoline-powered generator, a fuel-burning appliance that is installed improperly or connected to a blocked or leaking vent system, a charcoal grill or camp stove used indoors, a fire, or a misused engine-driven tool.

Consumers should be aware that the most effective way to protect against all potential sources of carbon monoxide is to install a CO alarm in every residence and to replace the alarm's batteries on a regular basis. CPSC also joined GAMA in recommending that consumers should always look for a CO alarm that is listed either to the ANSI UL 2034 or to the CSA 6.19 standards. A CO alarm produced in accordance with either of these standards tells the consumer the alarm has been tested independently and that it has met the durability and reliability levels required for effective use.

Research is going on to increase the effectiveness of CO alarms even more, and GAMA is in close consultation with CPSC and the standards developing organizations. One approach involves an "end of life" signal that would tell the consumer that the alarm's sensor is no longer working and that the alarm should be replaced. You and consumers will be hearing more from GAMA as our public information program shifts into the next phase, but the bottom line is that CO alarms can save lives now. At one time in our history, a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage was a national objective. Now, GAMA is helping make the goal a CO alarm in every home.


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