Carbon monoxide detector alerts Austin officer to leak in patrol vehicle

Austin Police Department Ford Explorer (KXAN/File Photo)
Austin Police Department Ford Explorer with possible carbon monoxide. March 18, 2017 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — City of Austin officials say they are trying to find out how carbon monoxide possibly seeped into an officer’s patrol car recently.

The officer in the latest incident did not become ill. He was alerted to the leak by a carbon monoxide warning system, installed not long after an Austin police officer became sick after getting carbon monoxide poisoning in his police vehicle in March.

Austin police could not say what time or day the most recent incident happened. They say the officer stopped his patrol car when the alarm went off and notified the city’s fleet services department.

After the March incident, Austin police said their plan was to install 400 carbon monoxide detectors in every Ford Explorer in their fleet, spending about $50 per vehicle.

“It’s the same detector we use in our K9 vehicles to make sure carbon monoxide is detected in the cab of those vehicles,” said Asst. Chief Ely Reyes.

On Feb. 27, days after the first incident of an officer feeling unwell, the department sent out a safety bulletin warning officers of the possible risk of CO fumes. At that time, the department said they had two reported incidents. One officer reported becoming lightheaded while driving a patrol SUV; the other was for an odor that a sergeant was worried about while operating his patrol SUV.

The fumes leaking into the cabin is an issue Ford Motor Company has been aware of for several years – even issuing a recommended fix in 2014 and another last summer. Also last summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into more than 150 consumer complaints involving exhaust odors entering the vehicle.

The vehicles in question are the Ford Explorer model year 2011 to 2015.

Other Police Departments

Law enforcement agencies across the country have Ford Explorers in their fleet and the agencies in Central Texas are no different. Here’s a list of how the departments are handling the CO issue as of March 2017.

Austin ISD PD: They have 16 Ford Explorers that fall under the affected years of 2011-2015. All have CO detectors installed.

Cedar Park PD: They have 35 Ford Explorers. The department has installed CO detectors that will be changed out periodically per the prescribed schedule.

Hays County Sheriff’s Office: They only have one in service that fits the recall and they have made arrangements for monitoring the carbon monoxide issues. All other models are newer Explorers.

Pflugerville PD: The city has two 2016 Ford Explorers, none that fall into the years 2011-2015. The rest of the fleet is made up of Ford Escapes.

Round Rock PD: They have 14 Explorers that fall into the years 2011-2015. The agency is not installing CO detectors at this time, but they’ll continue to monitor this situation and adjust accordingly, if necessary.

San Marcos PD: They currently have 27 Ford Explorers in its fleet. The department has purchased enough CO detectors for installation in all of its patrol vehicles regardless of manufacturer due to the nature of police work (high vehicle idle times, etc.)

University of Texas PD: They currently have 17 Ford Explorers that fall into the years 2011-2015. The department had installed CO detectors. Two to three of their Ford Explorers have been identified by VIN and are being sent back to Ford to be checked.

Travis County Sheriff’s Office: They have the latest model in their fleet. All of their Explorers have CO detectors.

Williamson County Sheriff’s Office: They currently have five Ford Explorers. While they haven’t had any issues, they are looking into installing CO detectors.

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