Guarding against the invisible threat: Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week 2023

November 1, 2023

Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, taking place from November 1-7, is an initiative backed by fire departments across Canada to educate the public on the risks posed by carbon monoxide (CO).

With CO being referred to as “the silent killer”, it’s crucial to be informed about the steps necessary to protect oneself and their family.

Understanding the dangers of Carbon Monoxide:

CO is an invisible, tasteless, and odourless gas which makes it extremely dangerous as the symptoms of CO poisoning are often confused with the flu.

This leads to its reputation as the number one cause of preventable poisoning deaths in North America. Deputy Fire Chief Matt Hepditch highlighted: “CO is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas making it impossible to detect without a working CO alarm.”

By law in Ontario, homes with fuel-burning appliances, fireplaces, or attached garages are required to install CO alarms outside all sleeping areas.

Failure to do so could result in hefty fines for individuals and landlords.

Jon Pegg, Ontario’s Fire Marshal, emphasized: “The law is in place to save lives and only a working carbon monoxide alarm will identify the presence of a carbon monoxide leak in your home before it’s too late.”

Exposure to CO can result in symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, and even death.

Key safety practices to ensure CO safety

  • Test CO alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Annually inspect fuel-burning appliances.
  • Ensure chimneys and vents are free from obstructions.
  • Immediately evacuate and call 9-1-1 if a CO alarm activates or if CO poisoning symptoms are suspected.
  • Refrain from using barbeques or gas-powered generators indoors.

Smoke alarms: An essential line of defense against fires

While the emphasis is on carbon monoxide during this week, it’s also an opportune moment to remember the importance of smoke alarms.

Montreal’s fire department recorded a total of 1,303 building fires in 2022, with many attributed to human error.

Smoke alarms remain a crucial tool in preventing fire-related casualties.

In addition to checking CO alarms, it’s recommended that smoke alarms be tested regularly.

Proper maintenance and location away from potential triggering sources, such as cooking appliances, are also key factors to consider.

  • Ontario’s dual reminders: Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week and Daylight Savings

Ontario not only marks the importance of CO awareness but also links it with the daylight savings time change, using it as a reminder for residents to replace batteries in all smoke and CO alarms.

Besides the health risks of CO, legal penalties await those failing to comply with smoke and CO device regulations in Ontario.

Oshawa Fire Services has provided a comprehensive list of tips and reminders regarding smoke and CO alarms, emphasizing regular testing and the importance of understanding the sounds emitted by the alarms.

FSJA Comment

The emphasis on Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week provides a crucial reminder of the silent dangers that can lurk in our homes.

As temperatures drop and the use of heating appliances increases, it’s an opportune moment for homeowners and landlords alike to ensure that proper safety measures are in place.

The synchronization with daylight savings serves as a timely prompt to check on the status of our alarms.

By taking these steps, not only do we protect our families, but we also contribute to the broader safety of our communities.

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