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Safer vacations: CO and smoke alarms in your home away from home

June 8, 2017

State Fire Marshal Bruce West holds a CO alarm.
​Photo: Safety on vacation is just as important as it is at home, so make sure you have a CO and smoke alarm for your cabin, camper or boat like the one Minnesota State Fire Marshal Bruce West is holding.


The heat. The humidity. The rat race. Sometimes Minnesota summers just make you want to pack up the kids and go to the lake. But getting away isn’t worth it if your cabin or camper or boat isn’t as safe as it can be, so make sure you have working carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke alarms.

You can get a CO and smoke alarm for about $25 at your local home improvement or hardware store, but if you need assistance and can't afford an alarm, you can contact your local fire department or the Red Cross. Just make sure you have one outside each sleeping area and on every level.

If you already have smoke and CO alarms, make it an annual tradition to make sure they work the first time you walk in the door or get the boat in the water every summer. After all, nights can still get chilly this early in the season, so when your furnace kicks in or you start a fire in the fireplace or turn on the space heater, you’ll want to make sure you’re safe. If you don’t have smoke and CO alarms, you could be putting yourself and your family at risk.

If you think it’s an extravagance to equip your summer place with CO and smoke alarms, remember that most fatal fires happen where people feel safest: in their home. And your home away from home is the cabin, a lake place, a camper. You and your family are just as susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning or a deadly fire when you’re up at the lake, as evidenced by the couple who died of apparent CO poisoning in their camper in Cloquet last week.

As for smoke and CO alarms on boats, a new Minnesota law will soon require them on those with cabins. It’s called Sophia’s Law, named for Sophia Baechler, a 7-year-old who died of CO poisoning while boating on Lake Minnetonka.

Cases like these help us remember that CO poisoning can happen to anyone, and not just at home. Fortunately, the solution is simple: CO and smoke alarms in both your home and your summer getaway, whatever that is for you. And once your mind is at ease knowing your family is safer from CO poisoning and fire, you can really get down to business: having a fun, relaxing vacation.