VRHP Member News - January/February 2024
We are excited to announce that VRHP will be representing at the VRMA European Conference in early March! Durk Johnson and I will be speaking on the topic of “Global Best Practices for Housekeeping/Operations.”
If you can’t make it to Paris, don’t forget that VRHP offers online education that is accessible anytime. There’s no time like the present to participate in our Housekeeper and Inspector Certification programs or our One-Day Seminars, which are available to our membership in a digital format at reduced rates. Education on-demand is a cost-effective and convenient way to learn. Get the information and best practices that you want for your business, anytime, anywhere — on your own schedule.
If there are additional topics that you’d like to see covered or questions that you’d like VRHP to take on, drop me a line!
Yours in cleanliness,
VRHP Council Chair
Atlantic Vacation Homes
Safety Topic of the Month: Cleaning Up Pathogens
When cleaning a vacation home, there is often a high risk of coming into contact with dangerous pathogens such as viruses that come from bodily fluids or other contaminants. Take precautions during all cleaning procedures and make sure to use the correct techniques and product types in order to minimize health risks..
Carbon Monoxide Dangers in Vacation Rentals
By Justin Ford, Breezeway
It’s in the headlines often, but it doesn’t have to be. The most recent notable case occurred this past Thanksgiving, fortunately, it wasn’t a fatal one.
A large family had booked a stay at a vacation rental cabin in Utah to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, but then a series of strange events started happening.
Two family members began feeling weak like they were going to pass out. Then one of the other family members found their 11-month-old child lethargic and pale in the cabin and immediately transported the baby to the hospital. In the meantime, another child was found unresponsive before fainting on the floor.
After some that were still awake noted that several family members were passed out and several others were not feeling well, they acted quickly, calling 911 and opening all the doors of the cabin.
The family went from one person unresponsive to all fifteen in a matter of ten minutes. When the fire department arrived at 2:30 a.m. local time, firefighters used a detector to determine that there were high amounts of carbon monoxide in the cabin. The highest readings were in the basement utility room.
Every single one of the family members’ blood tests at the hospital showed that they had carbon monoxide levels over 8.5%, with one person at a whopping 33%.
According to the National Institute of Health, carbon monoxide poisoning is defined as having carboxyhemoglobin levels of over 10%, while severe poisoning is associated with levels over 20-25%.
Unfortunately, no carbon monoxide alarms alerted the vacation renters to the leak. Had the incident happened later in the night, it’s likely all would have perished. Utah State law doesn’t currently require carbon monoxide alarms in vacation rentals, but many localities in Utah do. Most states require carbon monoxide alarms in all transient housing, as vacation rentals are often referred to by building codes.
The Deadly Gas
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is one of the deadliest gasses that can appear in a vacation rental (or anywhere) because it can’t be smelled, seen, or tasted and it is slightly less dense than air. The incomplete burning of any material containing carbon, such as gasoline, natural gas, oil, kerosene, propane, charcoal, or wood produces the gas.
Common sources of carbon monoxide in vacation rentals include malfunctioning furnaces or boilers, malfunctioning gas fireplaces, malfunctioning gas wall heaters, and poorly vented heating spaces. Other sources include cars operating in an attached garage, heating appliance vents blocked by snow, gas grills located too close to the interior, gas pool heaters venting by an open window, or a poorly placed backup generator.
Detecting the Presence of Carbon Monoxide
To determine if CO is present in a rental, CO alarms should be installed. Even if a rental has no known CO-producing appliance, it is recommended that at least one should be installed in a central location near bedrooms. In short-term rentals with fuel-burning appliances like stoves, fireplaces, and heaters, CO alarms must be mounted outside of each separate sleeping area within 21 feet of any door to a sleeping room; on every occupied level of the rental dwelling unit, including basements; and in all sleeping rooms and guest rooms containing installed fuel-burning appliances. Check local laws to see if they require stricter adherence to this.
Challenge with Products Available to Detect Carbon Monoxide
The most common type of Carbon Monoxide Alarm, the Combination Smoke/CO Alarm is the absolute worst product for commercial applications in a vacation rental. Many property managers and property owners haven’t taken the time to do the research to learn why.
Starting with the fact that Consumer Reports has never given a good rating to any combination CO/Smoke Alarm, the reasons become continually evident that combination units don’t belong in vacation rentals.
Here are the all reasons for not having a combo smoke/CO alarm in your rentals.
- Consumer Reports ® doesn’t give a buy rating to any Combination CO/Smoke Alarm sold in the US. Don’t your renters deserve the best?
- Many combination CO/Smoke alarms have confusing alarm sound patterns. For example, some alert the presence of smoke with three beeps in a row, and then carbon monoxide with four beeps in a row. Without reading the instructions, a renter may not know the difference with the beep patterns. They may not see smoke and disable the alarm not realizing it is sounding for invisible and odorless carbon monoxide.
- Combination units don’t have digit readouts or memory settings. WIth the pontiac for a carbon monoxide incident to have occurred and dissipated temporarily, having a unit with a memory to alert the renters to a potential incident is key. Digital readouts also show the parts per million exposure a renter may have received, which can help with their immediate care by first responders.
- Carbon Monoxide often won’t rise all the way up to the ceiling (like smoke does) until the concentration of the gas is at a critically dangerous level. Ceiling mounted combination units may not detect this until it is too late.
The Best Carbon Monoxide Alarms for Vacation Rentals
First Alert® hasn’t had any smoke, fire, or carbon monoxide alarms recalled since 2006. With that kind of track record, they should be a top consideration for purchase in vacation rentals.
- First Alert® Model GCO1CN Combo Explosive Gas and Carbon Monoxide Alarm with digital display is a great unit to put near furnaces and boilers, gas fireplaces, or kitchen ranges. This unit not only records, memorizes, and measure carbon monoxide leaks, it will detect if natural gas or propane has leaked that could lead to an explosion.
- First Alert® CO615 Plug-in Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Battery Backup and Display. It’s important to have an alarm that can not only be powered by AC power, but also operate when the power is out. These units should be installed in bedrooms and sleeping areas and plugged in so that renters can’t easily unplug them. Using cord wall covers is a good idea so that if you mount them on the wall, they look ‘tidy’.
Most newer carbon monoxide detectors are built to last around seven years. Property managers should replace them every five to seven years from their manufacture date because their ability to detect CO is questionable after that point. Many now have expiration alarms built into them. Check the manufacture date on the back and keep good records of their age.
Vacation Managers Should Be Experts in Carbon Monoxide and Detection
Property Managers have a professional obligation to be experts when it comes to their type, placement, and maintenance. A short-education on this topic can be obtained in the VRMA recommended Breezeway® Short-Term Rental Safety Inspector Course, through online viewing of YouTube® videos, or through National Fire Protection Associations (NFPA) educational materials.
In short, Carbon Monoxide alarms are best installed between three and five feet off the floor (like a fire extinguisher).
Keep them out of direct sunlight and away from fixtures that generate heat (appliances, lights, radiators, etc.) and out of overly humid areas (bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc.). Keep in mind airflow, too: Don’t mount Carbon Monoxide Alarms by windows that are often opened or in dead air spaces.
Protecting Your Vacation Rental Floors
By Sean Kemper, Kemper Industries
Whether your vacation rental is nestled along the sandy shores or surrounded by the snowy slopes, protecting your flooring from potential damage is crucial for maintaining its pristine appeal. Here's a comprehensive guide on safeguarding your floors from sand damage at beach locales and salt damage in snowy retreats.
Sand Damage in Beach Areas:
- Use: Place walk-off mats at all entry points to trap sand before it reaches the interior.
- Benefit: Prevents abrasive sand particles from scratching and damaging floors.
Shoe Boot Stations:
- Implement: Designate a designated shoe/boot station near entrances.
- Advantage: Encourages guests to shake off excess sand, reducing the likelihood of it spreading indoors.
- Recommendation: Regularly vacuum and mop to remove residual sand.
- Benefit: Preserves the floor finish and minimizes long-term damage.
Salt Damage from Ski Resorts:
- Utilize: Install heavy-duty walk-off mats to capture salt and snow.
- Advantage: Shields floors from corrosive salt and prevents water damage.
Shoe Boot Stations:
- Establish: Set up dedicated areas for removing boots.
- Benefits: Minimizes the spread of salt and snow within the property.
- Suggestion: Use a neutral pH cleaner to dissolve salt without harming the floor.
- Benefit: Preserves the floor's integrity while effectively removing salt residue.
Cleaning Chemicals for Both Environments:
Safer Choice Products:
- Choose: Opt for environmentally friendly cleaning products.
- Benefits: Protects the floor while minimizing environmental impact.
- Seek: Look for cleaning products approved by vacation rental professionals.
- Advantages: Ensures compatibility with various flooring types and effective removal of sand and salt.
By implementing these protective measures and incorporating thoughtful cleaning routines, your vacation rental can maintain its allure regardless of the natural elements it faces. From walk-off mats to designated cleaning products, these strategies will help you safeguard your floors, ensuring they withstand the beauty of beach sands and the challenges of snowy retreats. Remember, a little prevention goes a long way in preserving the beauty and longevity of your vacation rental floors.