Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week 2020

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What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, tasteless and invisible poisonous gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fuels such as natural gas, oil, gasoline, propane, kerosene or wood. It can make a person feel sick and can be deadly, which is why it is also known as “The Invisible Killer.”

Carbon monoxide is not only found in coal mines. It is a gas that can come from heating and cooking devices in the home too.

Gas stove and gas furnace

Today’s homes are better insulated and tightly sealed when compared to older homes, which means when appliances are on, it may

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, tasteless and invisible poisonous gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fuels such as natural gas, oil, gasoline, propane, kerosene or wood. It can make a person feel sick and can be deadly, which is why it is also known as “The Invisible Killer.”

Carbon monoxide is not only found in coal mines. It is a gas that can come from heating and cooking devices in the home too.

Gas stove and gas furnace

Today’s homes are better insulated and tightly sealed when compared to older homes, which means when appliances are on, it may be harder for air to properly combust. Incomplete combustion can cause carbon monoxide to build-up.


What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms such as: headaches, nausea, dizziness, burning eyes, confusion, drowsiness and even loss of consciousness. In severe cases, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage and death.

Everyone is susceptible but experts agree that unborn babies, pregnant women, senior citizens and people with heart or respiratory problems are especially vulnerable. If symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are experienced seek medical attention immediately. CO poisoning can be determined by a carboxyhemoglobin test.

Carbon monoxide can poison the body quickly in high concentrations or slowly over long periods of time.

How is carbon monoxide detected?Yellow canary

Poor ventilation is often a problem in coal mines. In the past, canaries were used to test the air quality in the mines. Canaries are very sensitive to dangerous gases. In the mines, the canaries would chirp and sing all day (listen to this audio sample), however if the levels of poisonous gases got too high, the canaries would have trouble breathing, and would stop singing, and in some cases, even die. When the canaries stopped singing, miners would know that the gas levels in the mines were unsafe and to exit as soon as possible.

Today we have carbon monoxide alarms in our homes. CO alarms are normally silent and alarm when gas levels in our homes are unsafe, we exit our homes when the alarm starts sounding.


Why are carbon monoxide alarms important?

Since we can’t see, smell, or taste carbon monoxide, we need to rely on carbon monoxide alarms to help with early detection and warning of poisonous gas in our homes.

Provincial legislation requires that carbon monoxide alarms be installed in all homes across Ontario. Specifically adjacent to all sleeping areas in residential homes, and in the service rooms and outside all sleeping areas adjacent to service rooms in multi-residential units.


What do I do if my carbon monoxide alarm sounds?

In the event of a carbon monoxide leak, a carbon monoxide alarm will provide you and your family with advance warning so you can escape your home. It is critical that you get to fresh air as soon as possible and call 9-1-1. Every second counts! Emergency responders and Markham Fire and Emergency Services will provide information for safe home re-entry.

Are there heroes in your home? Carbon monoxide alarms save lives

What does a carbon monoxide alarm sound like?

Your carbon monoxide alarm sounds different from your smoke alarm.

Smoke alarms have three long beeps and go beep, beep, beep pause beep, beep, beep.”

Carbon monoxide alarms normally have four quick beeps and go “beep, beep, beep, beep pause beep, beep, beep, beep.

Hear the difference:


Test your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms monthly and make sure everyone in your home knows the difference between the two alarm sounds, and knows what to do when the alarm activates.

The sound of your carbon monoxide alarm’s low-battery warning has a different sound (one beep every minute). Follow your carbon monoxide alarm manufacturer’s instructions so you know the difference between the low-battery warning, the end-of-life warning, and the alarm that alerts you to the presence of carbon monoxide in your home.

Helpful tip:

Write on the battery or device to remind yourself when it was installed and when it should be replaced (Usually 8 to 10 years).


What kind of carbon monoxide alarms are there?

Hard-wired

Hard-wired carbon monoxide detectors are part of your home’s existing wiring system, similar to smoke alarms. One of the main benefits of hard-wired carbon monoxide alarms is they are linked to each other, so when one alarm goes off, they all sound.

Battery-powered

Battery-powered carbon monoxide alarms are simple to install. They can be placed on a ledge or moved throughout the house. You can also get battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors, that communicate with each other and your smart home system.

Plugged-into the wall

A plug-in carbon monoxide alarm uses an AC adapter to plug into any outlet. This type of alarm also requires battery backups in case the power goes out, so you will need to check and change batteries.


Should my carbon monoxide (CO) alarm have a digital display? What does the peak level function do?

A digital display allows you to see if CO is present and respond before it becomes a dangerous situation.

Peak Level Memory stores the highest recorded reading prior to being reset. This feature enables you to know if there was a reading while you were away from home and also can help emergency responders determine the best treatment.


Where do I install a carbon monoxide alarm?

Carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air, some manufactures recommend that you place it on the ceiling or at least five feet from the floor. Most newer homes today are heated with forced air or convection heating systems, The carbon monoxide gas won't settle at the floor, float in the middle, or rise to the top, it will disperses at an equal concentration throughout the room. Always install the device or plug in the device in accordance to the manufactures recommended height. Always follow your manufactures user guides.


CO safety tips - Keeping our community safe

Most appliances should be installed by professionals and inspected after installation. Regularly examine vents and chimneys for improper connections, visible rust, or stains, and check for cracks in furnace heat exchangers.

Verify that the colour of the flame is blue on pilot lights and burners. A yellow or orange flame is a sign that the fuel is not burning completely and may be releasing CO. Teach all household members what the alarm sounds like and how to respond.Most utility companies and HVAC contractors will perform CO inspections, some may charge for this service.

Did you know?

“In Ontario, more than 80 per cent of injuries and deaths from carbon monoxide occur in the home. We want to make sure everyone is safe from carbon monoxide. That’s why we’re recommending that residents get their fuel-burning appliances inspected by a registered contractor.”

“With the onset of cold weather months comes the increased use of furnaces and fireplaces. If not inspected and maintained regularly, these fuel-burning appliances can emit deadly levels of carbon monoxide gas. We want to remind residents of two important steps they need to take to keep themselves and their family safe. Have all fuel-burning appliances inspected annually by a TSSA-certified fuel technician and install and regularly test certified carbon monoxide alarms in your home.”

- John Marshall, Director of TSSA’s Fuels Safety Program



For more information and to find a TSSA-registered contractor near you, visit heating.tssa.org/.




Make an appointment to have your residential furnace inspected and cleaned annually by a registered home heating technician.

For more carbon monoxide safety tips, visit the Office of the Fire Marshal website.







How do I protect my family?

  • Ensure all fuel-burning appliances and vents are inspected annually.
  • Install CO alarms outside all sleeping areas if your home has a fuel-burning appliance, fireplace or attached garage.
  • For best protection, install CO on every storey of the home.
  • Test CO alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Replace you alarms according to manufacturers' recommendations.

Regular inspection and maintenance of the furnace and fuel-burning appliances by a certified home heating technician is the best way to reduce incidents of carbon monoxide exposure,” Increased awareness of CO dangers, coupled with a regular inspection and maintenance program, will not only reduce risk of CO exposure, but it also makes good economic sense.

Visit this Markham Emergency & Fire Services web page to learn more about carbon monoxide alarms.


Patio heaters pose a fire risk, Fire Dept. warn as restaurants winterize

"Fuel-powered patio heaters can pose risks if they’re not used properly," the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs said in a news release for fire prevention week.

Cautioning the public about the risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning from patio heaters as restaurants around the country winterize their patios for outdoor pandemic dining. “With cooler temperatures, many establishments are still using their outdoor dining spaces by adding different types of portable heaters,” said OAFC President, Chief Cynthia Ross Tustin. “Not only do portable heaters need to be installed, used, and maintained correctly, they must also be a safe distance from flammable objects, and be properly ventilated. It is imperative that proper safety precautions are followed to prevent damage to property, injuries, or worse, a fatal incident.”

Read the full press release HERE.


Prepare and practice a home escape plan twice a year, including drills at night. Know two ways out of every room (door & window) and identify a meeting place outside the home where everyone will gather once they have exited the home.


Yellow canary
Never ignore a CO alarm when it sounds. Get outside immediately and call 9-1-1 from a fresh-air location. The emergency responders and fire department will provide information for safe home re-entry.