By Kevin Walters
The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office marks the state’s first recognized Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day by reminding Tennesseans to protect themselves and their families from what is often called the “silent killer.”
Carbon monoxide poisoning can have tragic consequences. On Sept. 18, 2011, five friends—Jon and Kathryn Watson Over, Jim Wall, Tim Stone and Allison Bagwell-Wyatt—lost their lives in Clarksville, Tenn. when carbon monoxide fumes from a generator seeped into their rented RV. The RV’s carbon monoxide detector, which could have prevented the deaths, was later discovered to have no batteries.
This week, Skylar Hughes, 18, presented Austin Peay State University President Alisa White with a $25,000 check for the creation of the Kathryn Watson Over Endowment at APSU. The new scholarship, which was awarded at a ceremony at Kenwood High School in Clarksville, will be awarded each year to a Kenwood High School graduate who plans to major in education at APSU.
Since the 2011 tragedy, progress has been made to protect consumers and raise awareness of CO poisoning. Tennessee law now requires that rented RVs must have functioning carbon monoxide detectors before being leased for use. The law also holds RV rental companies responsible if they fail to document and test the CO detectors in their leased vehicles.
This law only applies to RV rentals. It is still imperative that RV owners stay diligent in testing and changing the batteries of carbon monoxide detectors in their own campers.
“The creation of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Day was the brainchild of Skylar Hughes, a former student of Kathryn Over, who was one of the five people who tragically lost their lives on September 18,” said Representative Pitts. “Great thanks to the Department of Commerce and Insurance for their help in promoting Carbon Monoxide poisoning detection and saving lives in our state.”
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas created when fuels (such as kerosene, gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil and methane) burn incompletely. Carbon monoxide can result from camping equipment, such as barbecue grills, portable generators or other fuel-powered devices.