Carbon Monoxide: What you need to know

Carbon Monoxode Week: November 1-7

You can’t see. You can’t smell it. You can’t taste it.

But you can die from it.

Carbon Monoxide.

Samantha Hoffmann – Fire and Life Safety Officer, Barrie Fire and Emergency Service

The Ontario Fire Code requires all homes in Ontario with fuel-burning appliances, a fireplace or an attached garage to have working CO alarms outside of each sleeping area. Fuel-burning appliances can include furnaces, hot water heaters, gas or wood fireplaces, portable fuel-burning heaters and generators, barbeques or stoves.

Condos and apartment buildings with a service room, are required to have CO alarms installed in the service room and adjacent to each sleeping area of all homes above, below and beside the service room. In condo or apartment buildings that have a garage, CO alarms must be installed adjacent to each sleeping area of all homes above, below and beside the garage.

Where does it go?

One of the biggest mistakes people make, says Samantha Hoffmann, Fire and Life Safety Officer with Barrie Fire and Emergency Service (BFES), is that they put it (CO Alarm) by their furnace because they think that’s where their carbon monoxide problem is going to come from, “Actually, you need to have it by your sleeping areas…carbon monoxide mixes freely with the air, so it’s going to be coming throughout your entire house, even if your furnace is the culprit. You need an alarm right by your sleeping area so it’s loud and piercing and gets you into action.”

That action, says Hoffmann, is to gather the family and leave the house immediately to get to fresh air, then call 911 to have firefighters pinpoint the source of the carbon monoxide.

A kitty litter box could set off your alarm

And while fuel-burning appliances and automobile exhaust are common causes of carbon monoxide, Hoffmann says it could also be something less sinister, like a cleaning product you’re using, if your CO alarm is too close to your kitty litter box or if your alarm is on the same switch as a light dimmer.

Push the button

The best type of alarm to buy is one with a digital readout. They are set to activate at 70 parts per million (PPM). If you see a reading of 20 or 25 PPM, it’s not enough to sound the alarm, but it is enough to have someone come in and check your fuel-fired appliances (appliance servicing is recommended once-a-year to ensure they are working efficiently).

When you test your alarm – and you should do this regularly – Hoffmann says you want to make sure that it sounds. The readout will also show if any carbon monoxide accumulation has occurred over the previous two weeks. Anything over zero is a signal to have your service company to check to have a look at your appliances.

The danger

Carbon monoxide suffocates you from the inside. It impairs your thinking; you will not be able to think properly. If everyone else in the house gets sick at the same time, that’s a warning signal as well. Hoffman says at that point, it’s often too late.

There is an average of 11 carbon monoxide deaths in Ontario every year.

There have been three such deaths in Barrie in the last four years.

Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week events

BFES has partnered with Lowe’s and Home Depot to host two safety events during the week. On Saturday, November 2, join firefighters from 12 to 4 p.m. at Lowe’s (71 Bryne Drive). There will be giveaways, a fire truck demonstration and information about smoke, carbon monoxide alarms and home escape planning. On Wednesday, November 6 from 1 to 2 p.m., BFES is hosting a free workshop at Home Depot (10 Barrieview Drive). The workshop will cover everything residents need to know to stay safe from the silent killer. Residents are encouraged to sign up for the workshop at the Home Depot Customer Service Desk.

During Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, Barrie Fire and Emergency Service is giving away free CO alarms to everyone who provides proof of having their furnace and fireplace professionally cleaned this year. Residents can visit Fire Station 1, 155 Dunlop Street West, or tag BFES on Facebook (@BarrieFireService) or Twitter (@Barrie_Fire) to show their proof and claim their alarm.