La Crosse, WI- If you’re building an apartment building or motel in Wisconsin, be sure to install carbon monoxide detectors before it opens.

It’s the law.

As of Oct. 1, Wisconsin law requires carbon monoxide alarms in most newly constructed, multi-occupant residential buildings that contain fuel-burning appliances.

That goes for structures such as apartment buildings, condominiums, dormitories, bed and breakfast establishments, hotels, motels and community-based residential facilities that have fuel-burning appliances such as gas furnaces, gas water heaters and gas stoves.

Owners of those kinds of existing buildings have until April 1, 2010, to install carbon monoxide alarms, under the rules announced by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. The department issued the new regulations as emergency rules, as required by legislation that Gov. Jim Doyle signed in April.

But most one- and two-family dwellings, and hospitals and nursing homes, are not required to have the alarms. One- and two-family dwellings would have to have an alarm only if they’re part of a commercial business, such as a resort.

Many affected property owners don’t yet know about the new requirement, said Division Chief Jeff Brohmer of the La Crosse Fire Department. “It’s something the state has needed for a number of years,” Brohmer said. He also wishes the state would require carbon monoxide alarms in one- and two-family homes.

Brohmer will speak about the new rules at the monthly meeting of the Apartment Association of the La Crosse Area at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Mirage Bar.

“I feel with proper education and placement that (the detectors will) save lives,” said association President Pamela Strittmater, who owns and manages apartments in the La Crosse area. “Personally, I’m all for the new requirement.”

“Anything that burns gas, oil or wood; anything with an open flame is going to produce carbon monoxide,” Brohmer said.

“Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless,” Brohmer said. “They call it the silent killer.”

The La Crosse Fire Department receives a number of calls each year regarding carbon monoxide detectors that have detected the gas in single-family homes and apartments, Brohmer said.

The changes were made to the Wisconsin Commercial Building Code, which governs the types of buildings that are affected by the new requirements, Department of Commerce spokesman Tony Hozeny said. Another code applies to single-family homes and duplexes, he said.

The legislation that resulted in changes to the Wisconsin Commercial Building Code was introduced by state Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie. He had been approached by some constituents related to an elderly couple who died from carbon monoxide poisoning several years ago at a resort cabin in northwest Wisconsin, said Paula McGuire, a legislative aide to Wirch.

Minnesota has much different requirements for carbon monoxide detectors. They are not mandated in buildings such as motels, bed and breakfast inns or dormitories.

But Minnesota has required that single- and multi-family dwellings built since January 2007 have a carbon monoxide detector within 10 feet of each bedroom. The same requirement took effect for existing single-family homes on Aug. 1, 2008, and will take effect for existing multi-family units on Aug. 1, 2009.