News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Carbon monoxide alarms available for Health Department clients
Donated alarms raise awareness of new law requiring CO alarms in new construction

(April 17, 2009) State Representative Gary McDowell and local businessman Steve Biggs delivered 90 carbon monoxide alarms donated by First Alert to the Health Department of Northwest Michigan to raise awareness of a new law requiring CO alarms in new construction as well as the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Public health nurses will distribute the alarms to Health Department clients who cannot afford to purchase the life-saving device.

Governor Jennifer Granholm recently signed important carbon monoxide alarm legislation, known as “The Overbeck Law”, for Patty and Gene Overbeck, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in 2003 in their Elk Lake retirement home. It requires carbon monoxide alarms be placed in all new residential construction. The carbon monoxide device may be battery-powered, plug-in, with or without battery backup, wired into the dwelling’s AC power line with secondary back-up, or connected to a control panel.

Together with the Overbeck’s children, the builder of that home, Steve Biggs, Chairman of Town & Country Cedar Homes, has become a passionate advocate for carbon monoxide alarms. The Overbeck children and Biggs worked together with McDowell and Michigan State Senator Tom George to get the law passed.

Often referred to as a silent killer because you cannot see, smell, or taste it, CO is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the US, killing 500 people per year and sending more than 15,000 people to hospital emergency rooms. A by-product of incomplete combustion, CO can be produced by stoves, water heaters, fireplaces, cars, gas grills, and a number of other appliances used in homes. Children and the elderly are most susceptible.

“We appreciate the outpouring of support following our personal tragedy and are thrilled about this legislative victory in our home state that will help prevent tragedies like ours from happening to others,” said Liz Overbeck from her home in California.

In 2003, Patty Overbeck accidently left her car running in the garage. Within hours, the house filled with toxic fumes and both Patty and Gene Overbeck died without recognizing the danger they were in. The Overbeck’s children were instrumental in lobbying efforts for the new law requiring CO monitors.

“This generous donation from First Alert comes at just the right time, as Michigan’s CO Law embraced an entire new group of homeowners,” said Tom Overbeck. “We’re also grateful to state legislators as well as local and state fire service representatives for their support in educating all Michigan residents about the importance of having the protection of a CO alarm.”

First Alert donated 500 CO alarms to The Overbeck Fund,, which focuses on legislative efforts to get alarms in homes. “We’re proud to be a part of this donation and educational campaign with the Overbeck family, our friends in the fire service, and legislators,” said Debbie Hanson, BRK Brands/First Alert director of external affairs. “There is no doubt that these alarms and educational efforts will have a meaningful and positive impact by helping local residents understand how to protect themselves against CO poisoning.”

A second bill, sponsored by Representative Steve Bieda, would require a carbon monoxide alarm in every hotel room in Michigan. That bill is currently awaiting Governor Granholm’s decision.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information about carbon monoxide poisoning, visit