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First steps taken to begin installation of carbon detectors

June 25th, 2013 10:05 pm by Becky Campbell

First steps taken to begin installation of carbon detectors

Washington County sheriff’s officials took the first step Tuesday to rectify a problem that led to dozens of inmates being sickened from carbon monoxide poisoning last weekend.

Leighta Laitinen, sheriff’s office spokeswoman, said representatives from Fleenor Security inspected the detention center to determine how to install a detection system.

“Today Fleenor focused on how the detectors would tie into the fire panel and which type of detector would work best with our system,” Laitinen said late Tuesday.

Fleenor will coordinate with electricians on the installation, but that won’t happen until next week, Laitinen said.

Carbon monoxide was released into two cell blocks early Saturday where 51 inmates were housed. It happened when a gas-powered water heater was not burning properly and vents designed to open when the heater operated did not open. Laitinen said that caused the carbon monoxide to be recirculated into the ventilation.

In addition to the inmates, one detention officer became ill and was treated with oxygen at the jail. One inmate was unconscious during the incident and was taken to Johnson City Medical Center for treatment.

Officers became aware of the problem Saturday after several inmates began complaining about headaches and nausea, Laitinen said. Fifty-one inmates in the two cell blocks were immediately removed from the affected areas — some into a recreational yard and others into booking — and treated with oxygen as needed, she said.

“We have smoke detector and fire alarm,” Laitinen said. “We just want to add the carbon monoxide factor to it.”

“The maintenance supervisor and the jail administrator have been going through the facility, they’ve made the phone calls to the people, the necessary people, that we need to come in and look at it,” Laitinen said Monday morning.

She said that to the knowledge of anyone at the jail, carbon monoxide detectors are not required, and none were installed at the jail. 

The Tennessee Corrections Institute passed the jail on a recent inspection “and to my knowledge, nothing was ever mentioned about carbon monoxide detectors,” she said.

She said the state fire marshal inspected the water heaters, and the one that malfunctioned is only about a year old.

“The system that went faulty on us is shut down,” Laitinen said. “I’m not turning it back on until I have one (carbon monoxide detector) in place.” 

Two water heaters supply those two jail pods where the malfunction occurred, so there is still one functioning water heater for those inmates.

The Johnson City Press has published two previous articles realted to this one. They can be reviewed by clicking here and here.

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