questions about the chicago story

Below are copies of emails and letters regarding the impact of Chicago's experience with CO alarms on the present CO alarm standards


Dear Mr. Kerr

We need additional information on the reliability and advisability of CO Detectors. We are particularly interested in how the current UL Standard was developed and changed as well as the Canadian Standard. We are interested in why low level detection is treated by the UL Standard in the way it is. We are interested in any and all information you have available or can get your hands on concerning the reliability of CO Detectors as well as what makes one more reliable than others.

I presume that you have copies of the various studies sponsored by the gas industry and that you may have contrary opinions and information. If you do not have copies of their studies I would be happy to send them to you.

Please respond as soon as possible. If you are interested in attending and addressing the ASHRAE meeting, I believe that can be arranged.




Please do send me the "Specific" AGA "Position Papers" you are Speaking about. I have a "TON" of Info, from various Sources; however, I want to MAKE SURE that we are Referencing EXACTLY the SAME Info.

Thank You, for the Request for: "The Rest of the Story" on the HORRIBLE Quality and Dependability of  UL - 2034  Listed  C O Alarms [Detectors].  I had the Pleasure of meeting Max Sherman recently at the EEBA Exhibit in Mesa, AZ, and have been putting together some Info on this Subject to forward to him; as well as preparing to put MOST of it on a Website that I am now preparing.
As soon will become Obvious, ... I have VERY, VERY, Strong Feelings on this subject, and have been "Leading the Charge" to "Raise the Bar" on Standard Requirements for YEARS. I am Personally Pleased with every little "Baby Step" Forward on this road, and EXTREMELY Proud of "Leading the Charge" to a GIANT STEP forward via the CSA- 6.19-01, C O Alarm Requirements. While I did
NOT get 100% of what I wanted, it is the FIRST TIME in my 49 Years in the Early Warning Detection, [Life-Safety], Industry that I Truly Feel that the REQUIREMENTS will actually put PRESSURE on the Manufacturer to ACTUALLY DO, ...... what they CLAIM ! ! !

This  is  NOT  a  "NICE"  Story !  It is a LONG, Disappointing, ... and Frankly Disgusting  STORY.  I want to tell you that I am EXTREMELY disappointed also to learn that the Management of Two of our Nation's Largest Conferences would "BOOK" their
Annual Conferences at the Exact same Time.  [ASHRAE & the NAHB] I would TRULY LOVE to be able to meet with your Committee, ... and attend the Meeting at the Palmer House; however, I have Already spent 10K on a Booth at the NAHB, where I am introducing a Terrific New Product in the AGA.  KIOSK Area in the Exhibit Hall.

I have been preparing a Three Ring Binder that will contain the "History" of CO Alarms / Detectors.   Remember, I was part of the Team that Obtained FM, [Factory Mutual], on the FIRST Residential C O Detection Product ever Approved in North America, ..... on NOV. 01,1973.

I look forward to further discussions, and I am hopeful for an Extensive Question & Answer Session with your group. Just to give you "Something" to THINK ABOUT, last Saturday, I went to our closest Walmart Super Store, where I purchased a New First Alert C O Alarm, Model FCD4, with Battery Backup. In the OWNER'S MANUAL, on page #19, it says: Accuracy of Digital Display is +100%, -40%  ................ with a NEW, UN-contaminated Sensor / Filters at Specified Temp. / Humidity and Air Pressure, ...... Now is it easier to "Understand" the 8,000 "False / Nuisance Alarms in Chicago on Dec. 22 & 23, 1994 ? ? ?

There were OTHER FACTORS involved in this "Nightmare", ... which you have probably NEVER been TOLD BEFORE !

Best Regards,
George E. Kerr President


Mr. Kerr,

I have been a proponent of including the requirement of CO detectors and or alarms in our proposed 62.2 Standard. I would like to request the information that Max said you could send to us since you will not be able to attend our next meeting in Chicago.

Thank you,

Thank You VERY MUCH, for your Interest in C O Poisoning, and "Life-Safety". As an Individual that has spent almost 50 Years, [will be on April 13, 2003], in the Early Warning" Detection Industry, ... I am Very Eager to Communicate with anyone & Everyone, that Can Help Move "Life-Safety" forward.  Unfortunately, the old expression: "The Road to Hell & Often to Jail, is Paved with "GOOD INTENTIONS", is still Very True. In this case, the HUGE VOLUME of "MIS-Information" has been "STAGGERING", and has MIS-Lead MANY GOOD "INTENTIONED" PEOPLE  ! ! !

As a Voting member on the UL-2034 & UL-2075 C O Technical C O Committees; as well as the CSA-6.19 C O Technical Committee, [Canada & USA], and a Consultant to the EU, CENELEC CO Technical Committee, I have the Distinct ADVANTAGE of both HEARING & SEEING where ALL the B. S. Comes From !!!

Please feel free to Call me at any time at: 800-643-5377, [800-OGE- KERR] or
888-4GE- KERR., and a Toll Free Fax at: 888 GEO- KERR.

Once again, I thank you for your Interest, and Look Forward to meeting you
Personally in the future.

George E. Kerr, President


My current question is how did the UL Standard get to the point where it ignored lower CO levels. What was the evidence and/or politics that got them to ignore low levels?
Thank You


Really Quite "SIMPLE":

1. Push for CHEAP products, meant using CHEAP SENSORS & other Components.
2. As stated on page #19 in the PRESENT First Alert Model # FCD4, ... Accuracy of Display is PLUS 100%, ... MINUS 40%  ! ! !
3. Hundreds of Thousands of "False / Nuisance" Alarms in 1992-93-94, ... TOPPED OFF by the 8,000 in 48 Hours in Chicago on Dec. 22 & 23, 1994, ..... SIMPLY FROZE, ... ANY TALK ABOUT "LOW-LEVEL" Detection, .... or even WARNINGS.
This is a VERY SOLID WALL of Resistance !
I probably should have mentioned that after the "Chicago NIGHTMARE", the City of Chicago actually NOTIFIED UL & First Alert that they had prepared a "Lawsuit" to Recover the HUGE amount of Money that it had COST the City to Respond to all of those "False" Alarms ! ! !
I was called by the City of Chicago to Testify at a "Special Hearing" held in Chicago to "Discuss" the Necessary Actions Required, and for the First Time in History, [to my knowledge], our UL, C O Technical Committee was Called to a "Special" Meeting between Christmas & New Years. [On Dec. 27, 1994], ... where we were "TOLD" of the IMMEDIATE ACTION that was being taken to "Smooth Things Over" with the City of Chicago, to HALT their "REVOKING" the Mandatory C O Ordinance that had just gone into Force on Oct. 01, 1994.
Official "Changes" were "ACCEPTED" at another "Special" Meeting on Feb. 27, 1995, when Everyone was told that the "Paper Work" [Owner's Manual, etc.] Changes were to be DONE by July 01, 1995 and that the REQUIRED PRODUCT Changes had to be COMPLETED by OCT. 01, 1995. ..... UNFORTUNATELY, ... the Changes made were a "Band-Aid" Solution to a Problem that Really Required MAJOR SURGERY ! ! !
Changes were made again in 1997, [Effective on Oct. 01, 1998. Almost Immediately thereafter, [March, 1999] Kidde-Nighthawk was hit with the MILLION Unit RECALL. [650,000 of which were Just Listed to the "NEW STANDARD" ! ! !  [ By the way, it was "TESTING done by my Canadian Associate, Jim Mackie and I that we took to CPSC to "FORCE" this "Immediate Recall. ["Immediate was 7 Days we gave them before Jim and I were going on National TV in BOTH the USA [ on 20-20], and Canada [ CTV-W-5 ], which is like our 60 minutes, which Jim and I had both been on a number of times.] [I have the "Test" Records.]
Changes are again being made; however, UL STILL REFUSES TO REQUIRE THAT THE SENSORS BE "MONITORED", ... or to make "Kill Switches" Mandatory. ....SO-o-o-o, "the Beat Goes On", ...
Regards, ...................... George



Thank you for your response.
So I take it that the City of Chicago put on the pressure a change in the standard.
And that the change in the standard they promoted was no alarms at low CO?
Best wishes


That is, in FACT, ..... WHAT  HAPPENED; ... HOWEVER, ... it was based on FALSE INFORMATION, ... it was NOT REALLY the Low Levels of C O that was the PROBLEM, the REAL PROBLEM was "CHEAP" SENSORS, HIGH HUMIDITY, and a 'LOOP HOLE" in UL-2034-92 that was as BIG as an AIRCRAFT CARRIER  ! ! !
Keep in mind, that DURING the WORST 48 Hours of this "Temperature Inversion", EPA reported that the "HIGHEST" C O Reading Recorded in the Ambient Air in Chicago was 19 PPM. the 1992 Version Permitted Exposure of 100 PPM for up to 90 Minutes.
The REAL PROBLEM, ONCE AGAIN, WAS ... "COST CUTTING", ... PERMITTED by the before mentioned "Huge Loop Hole" in UL-2034-92.  The Standard "Talked" about THREE "TEST" Points, 100 PPM, within 90 Minutes, 200 PPM within 35 Minutes, and 400 PPM, within 15 Minutes. The ONLY "MUST NOT ALARM" Timetable, was NO ALARM at 15 PPM in 480 Minutes, and NO ALARM at 100 PPM for 5 MINUTES, ...UL "TALKED" about "TIME WEIGHTED AVERAGES"; ... HOWEVER, ... IT DID NOT REQUIRE IT ! ! !

Manufactures DID NOT WANT to have to ACTUALLY Perform THREE [3] Separate "Tests", because it is more EXPENSIVE, ... SO THEY DID NOT DO IT, NO TIME WEIGHTED AVERAGING was REALLY FORCED UPON THEM by the STANDARD.

Instead they Employed the use of a "Mechanical Time Delay". They CALIBRATED the UNITS to ALARM at 100 PPM or Less, .... in LESS than the 15 Minute Requirement [at 400 PPM], and set the "TIME DELAY" to PREVENT  ALARMING for MORE than the 5 MINUTE "MUST NOT" Alarm Point, .... and they MET ALL THREE SET POINTS ! ! !
Most C O Detectors of that ERA, [and still for Many], use Sensors that "Take A Sample Reading" every 2 1/2 Minutes, the "PURPOSE" of Time Weighted Averaging was to ELIMINATE Nuisance Alarms because of a Short Term Exposure to C O , or other "Gases / Conditions" that could cause alarm activation, buy requiring Averaging of 5 Samples, over 12 1/2 Minutes, before actually ALARMING.
Because they Failed to Really do "Time Weighted Averaging", it meant that ANY Reading Recorded above their "Set Point", or any TRACE of Hair Spray, PAM, Alcohol Fumes, etc., was detected, ...... it was ONLY a MATTER of TIME, ...[WHEN, the "TIME DELAY" ended], .....YOU WERE GOING TO GET AN ALARM ! ! !
ADD HIGH HUMIDITY, FOGGY CONDITIONS, Ambient C O Levels above Normal, [but still below 19 PPM], ... and NO "Time Weighted Averaging", ..... and you have a Certain Recipe for NUISANCE ALARMS.
When you receive my 3 Ring Binder, pay Special Attention to my Letters to Bob Rivkin, Chicago City Attorney, and my 1991 letter to the Calif. Air Quality Board.
Best Regards, ...................... George


I understand the economics and politics. I want to know some specifics:
1) Who worked to get rid of warnings at low levels of CO? the alarm manufacturers? the gas industry? who?
2) Is it now prohibited under the UL standard to display any concentrations that would not have caused an audible alarm?  If so who lobbied for that and what was their argument?


Without Question, the Elimination of Low-Level Alarms with the Products NOW on the Market WAS a NECESSARY MOVE.

I know of cases where a Fire Dept. Responded 8 to 10 Times to the SAME HOUSE !
It was a REAL POWER PLAY, resulting of the "TEAMING UP" of the FIRE DEPARTMENTS and the UTILITY Companies that were having to shoulder the HUGE Expense of being the "First Responders", ... TOGETHER, they PRESSURED CPSC, ... and CPSC Pressured UL / CSA. I attended Several Meetings at CPSC during this "WAR".
Strangely Enough, TODAY, ... MOST FIRE DEPARTMENTS WANT to RESPOND to C O ALARMS because it HELPS them Justify their Budgets. [Which in large part is Based on the number of total Responses they are called upon to make.]

The "REASONING" Presented was that Many, Many, People seeing ANY C O Reading, from ONE up; were calling the First Responders.

As you may have noticed, there is a "Low-Level" DISCLAIMER on ALL of these UL / CSA LISTED C O ALARMS.
I URGE you again to CONSIDER that PROPER LOW-LEVEL MONITORING is IMPOSSIBLE under a STANDARD that PERMITS products like the First Alert Model FCD4 that states that the Accuracy of the Display is PLUS 100%, ... MINUS 40%, and if past History Continues, ... it will be EVEN WORSE. Keep in mind that the Unit I refer to is NOT from some OLD INVENTORY, it has a Manufactured Date of March 2002.
Regards, ............................. George


Hope you are doing well.  What is your take on the CO session coming up with the ASHRAE committee?  How about the report from Paul Clifford?  Do you know who is pushing for this session?  Trying to figure out if I can support the good side.  See you at Affordable.  Have a great holiday season and the best for the new year.



I failed to DIRECTLY ANSWER your Question.
The "Parties" PUSHING this Move for MANDATORY CO Alarm Requirements ARE:
1. U. L.
2. First Alert
3. Kidde-Nighthawk
4. All Other C O Alarm Manufacturers having a UL ListedCO Alarm.
Plus, some MIS-Informed, "Good Intentioned" People. As I told the Calif. Air Quality Board, [ See my Letter of Oct. 18, 1991], stating that: "The LAST THING we need Today, in the pursuit of "Life-Safety", is "Well Intentioned" People, and Organizations, repeating all over again in the area of "Gas Detection", the SAME Mistakes that we made in Smoke Detection Ordinances, Codes, and Standards".
!n 2003, TWELVE YEARS LATER, ... UNFORTUNATELY, ... that Statement is still TRUE  ! ! !