Pennsylvania is the number one state for carbon monoxide-relate deaths for the last ten years. Simple monitors like this can be purchased for as little as $20.

As our state legislators haggle over the details of a new budget, another issue sits awaiting their attention and vote.

The proposed legislation stands to help protect Pennsylvanians from a killer so fierce it enters silently, steals the breath we take and leaves death in its wake.

Pennsylvania has been the No. 1 state for carbon monoxide-related deaths for the last 10 years.

Think about the number of tragedies that have to occur to give us that “title.” Consider a young mother dying on Christmas Eve, or four young men with nothing but living to do, robbed of life before they even knew anything was wrong. Right now, we have the chance to protect ourselves and our families from this silent killer that has struck college campuses, day cares, offices and homes. We need to act.

Legislation recently introduced in the state House would require every new and existing Pennsylvania home to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed — a simple act that costs little money and can save lives.

Carbon monoxide accidents happen nationwide every day. From water heaters to portable generators, faulty furnaces to blocked flues, everyone is at risk. Because carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless it is particularly harmful because you don’t know when you’re being exposed.

The alarms that could potentially save your life are available at all home improvement stores and cost about $20. They require no special wiring; they can be plugged into a socket or fitted with three AA batteries.

We are required to have smoke alarms in our homes, but for a few dollars more, we can protect ourselves from the dangers we can see and those we cannot with a combination smoke/carbon monoxide detection unit. How can we not use this technology to protect ourselves and those we love?

Two years ago, I didn’t know anything more about carbon monoxide than to avoid running my car in the garage. Then tragedy brought this issue directly into my life. Last year, my brother and three of his friends died of carbon monoxide poisoning while renovating a house. Since then, I have used my tragedy to encourage others to install alarms in their homes.

Don’t take just my word for it. PA Safe Kids endorses the use of alarms to protect our smallest citizens who succumb quickest. The fire commissioner of Philadelphia has worked diligently for the recent legislation passed in his city to enact this change. He’s now encouraging city residents to outfit their homes with these lifesaving devices.

It has been a difficult road for me to write this piece. It’s been painful and frustrating and often repetitive. But the worst thing is that this is avoidable.

If every family is required to place an alarm in its home, teenage girls will never again have to lose a friend like Amanda Hansen who died at a sleepover party. Lilibeth and Kobe Santos could grow up knowing their mother’s death helped save others’ lives.

I could know that my brother, Mike Hopkins, who left us at only age 19, aided Pennsylvania in enacting change to save lives. He always wanted to be a doctor; what a fitting tribute for a boy who never grew to live his dream.

Please contact your legislators and ask them to vote ‘Yes’ on House Bill 1445.