Roanoke College

Roanoke College Releases CO Task Force Report


SALEM, Va.-Today President Sabine U. O'Hara released the report of the carbon monoxide task force she appointed in July. The five-member task force was charged with addressing three areas related to the college's long-term response to the accident involving the release of carbon monoxide in Sections residence hall this summer: technical issues related to carbon monoxide detection and warning systems; best practices and procedures; and education on the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

"The work of the task force has helped make our campus safer," O'Hara said. "We have already learned this fall that our new safety procedures work and that our newly installed equipment helps ensure the safety of those on our campus. Accidents happen and we certainly experienced a very tragic accident, but it is gratifying to know that the steps we took in response have led to a safer environment for our campus."

Immediately following the July accident, Roanoke College announced that although not required by law, the college would install CO detectors in every building on campus. The task force report makes additional recommendations for CO safety:

  • Install hard-wired CO detectors in all mechanical rooms where gas-fired boilers and water heaters are located. These areas are covered now by free- standing CO detectors which were put into place this summer. Hard-wired detectors have been ordered and will be installed this fall and winter.
  • Purchase three portable handheld CO detectors to be used as needed to monitor air quality by physical plant staff, campus safety officers and chemistry department faculty. The portable monitors are now in use on campus and earlier this month a campus safety officer used one when a CO detector went off in a mechanical room. (The reading for CO was zero and was confirmed by Salem Fire Department readings.
  • Expand plans for emergency evacuation procedures and drills.
  • Coordinate with the Salem Fire Department to develop campus floor plan notebooks to be available for the fire department on an ongoing basis.
  • Conduct weekly mechanical room inspections to monitor CO detectors.
  • Review maintenance plans and policies related to potential CO sources.
  • Continue educating the community on the dangers of CO poisoning. As part of the ongoing educational efforts, the report was released to the campus community the same day as educational materials were provided to faculty, staff and students-including those who live off-campus.

President O'Hara shared the task force report with the Roanoke College Board of Trustees at its October 27 meeting.

"I have asked the task force to continue its work under the leadership of Mark Noftsinger to coordinate the implementation of the task force recommendations," O'Hara said.

Task force members include Thomas Turner, director of campus safety; Teresa Blethyn, assistant dean of students for residence life; Rick Myers, director of physical plant; Dr. Benjamin Huddle, professor of chemistry; and Mark Noftsinger, vice president of business affairs, who replaced George "Skip" Zubrod as chair of the task force after he left the college to become president and CEO of Virginia Lutheran Homes in late September.

The full text of the task force report is available on the Roanoke College web site at

Links to educational resources can be found online at