Bill addressing safety of hotel patrons passes in general assembly

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

A fire at a Galesburg hotel ignited a change in state law regarding smoke detectors in hotels and other public lodgings. State Sen. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria) and State Rep. Don Moffitt (R-Galesburg) sponsored HB 1398; adding legal penalties for hotels that fail to ensure the smoke detectors on their premises are all in proper working order.

In June of 2009 a 73 bed hotel in Galesburg burned down. No one heard the smoke detectors, resulting in one death. The hotel had detectors installed, but several of them were either inoperable or outdated. The issue of there being no penalties for failure to have smoke detectors in working order was brought to Rep. Moffitt by Knox County States Attorney John Pepmeyer and Galesburg Fire Department Inspector Mike Whitson.

“We cannot expect families to sleep safely in a hotel if there are no penalties for requiring a lawful working smoke detector,” Moffitt said. “These new legal penalties will help ensure a safer environment for guests staying throughout Illinois.”    

According to LaHood and Moffitt, current law mandating the presence of smoke detectors exempts hotels from being forced to face criminal penalties. HB 1398 would change the law to include hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, tourist homes and courts, inns, and lodging houses.

“This legislation means that proper measures will be taken to ensure the safety of guests in Illinois hotels, and help prevent another tragedy like the one that happened in Galesburg,” said LaHood following the bill’s passage on the Senate floor.

HB 1398 passed unanimously in both chambers and has been sent to Gov. Pat Quinn.