The first week of November marked British Columbia’s second annual Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week. A recently commissioned study from PMG Intelligence revealed that 71 per cent of Canadians either do not know the signs of carbon monoxide buildup in their home or are unsure what the signs are.
Carbon monoxide can build up in the home when fuels in a fuel-burning appliance, such as a gas stove, burn incompletely. The effects of this build up can be devastating and being exposed to too much carbon monoxide for too long can result in death.
“Carbon monoxide is one of those safety risks that exists in almost every home in British Columbia, but easily goes unrecognized. This is what makes it so dangerous,” says Ryan Milligan, Senior Safety Gas Officer with Technical Safety BC. “That’s why public education and awareness is so critical to saving lives.”
Less than 1-in-5 Canadians are very knowledgeable about this colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas. With British Columbians hospitalized every year due to carbon monoxide exposure—and two fatal cases of carbon monoxide poisoning this past summer—it is essential that the province as a whole takes steps to better understand how to stay carbon monoxide safe.
Early carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include headaches, confusion, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, and chest pain. That being said, in the cases seen this past summer, the buildup of carbon monoxide was so swift that those impacted did not have time to even recognize any symptoms. The potential for rapid-onset exposure is just another reason why British Columbians should know how to prevent carbon monoxide in their home.
Technical Safety BC is also encouraging British Columbians to learn about potential sources of carbon monoxide in their home, such as gas appliances, and to have those appliances serviced annually by a licensed gas contractor.
With the unique winter conditions that COVID-19 has brought, it’s also important for the province to raise awareness about carbon monoxide outside the home. Patio heater safety is just another part of a larger carbon monoxide awareness issue within Canada, and it’s clear more public education is needed.
Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week runs from November 1 to 7 this year, and the Shuswap Fire Departments are reminding you to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) build up in your home by properly maintaining all fuel-burning appliances and installing CO alarms in your home.
What are the sources of CO
Common sources include gas-fired furnaces, boilers, hot water tanks, stoves, dryers, and fireplaces. These items — along with the venting systems and fresh air supply into your home — should be checked at least once a year.
How to prevent CO exposure
Schedule an annual appliance inspection Contact a licensed gas contractor to take a look at your gas appliances (your stove, furnace, fireplace, etc) and venting systems to confirm they’re in good working order. Visit www.technicalsafetybc.ca to find a licensed contractor near you.
Check that all outside appliance vents are not blocked.
Never use barbecues inside garages, even if the garage doors are open. Only use them outside, away from all doors, windows, vents, and other building openings.
Portable fuel-burning generators should only be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from windows, doors, vents and other building openings.
Ensure all portable fuel-burning heaters are vented properly, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Never use the stove or oven to heat your home.
Open a chimney flue before using a fireplace for adequate ventilation.
Never run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor inside a garage, even if the garage doors are open. Always remove a vehicle from the garage immediately after starting it.
Install a Canadian-certified CO alarm
Look for a certification mark from a certification body accredited by the Standards Council of Canada.
Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions that in most cases say to put it in the hallway outside your bedrooms and on each level of your home.
If your alarm isn’t hardwired, check your batteries twice a year. And if it’s more than seven years old (check the end of like date), get a new one. Units with sealed lithium batteries require no battery replacement or maintenance.
Know the sound of your CO alarm
Your CO alarm sounds different than your smoke alarm. Test BOTH alarms monthly and make sure everyone in your home knows the difference between the two alarm sounds.
Don’t be confused by the sound of your CO alarm’s low-battery warning. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions so you know the difference between the low-battery warning, the “end-of-life” warning, and the alarm alerting you to the presence of CO in your home.
- CO Safety: COsafety.tips
- British Columbia Fire Chiefs’ Association: FCABC.ca
- Fire Prevention Officers’ Association of BC: FPOABC.bc.ca
- Fortis BC: fortisbc.com
- Office of the Fire Commissioner: gov.bc.ca/FireSafety
- Pacific Northern Gas: PNG.ca
- Technical Safety BC: technicalsafetybc.ca