Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week begins Wednesday throughout the province, a timely reminder to have properly installed and maintained alarms as the home-heating season gets under way. Tim Adair, Stratford’s director of fire prevention, said there are still common misconceptions when it comes to carbon monoxide such as it’s a low-lying gas.
“Some people think it’s heavier than air, some people think it’s lighter than air,” he said, noting they’re about the same weight and carbon monoxide will be equally present throughout all levels of a home if there is a leak.
Another frequent misunderstanding homeowners have is alarms only need to be installed in furnace rooms or by fireplaces.
“Are they going to hear that alarm at two in the morning with their bedroom door closed dead asleep? No, they’re not,” Adair said. “That’s why the law states it has to be outside all sleeping areas.”
The dangers of carbon monoxide, an odourless and colourless gas, received province-wide attention in December 2008 when a family of four, including OPP Const. Laurie Hawkins, died from a leak in their Woodstock home. Police said a carbon buildup in the pipe of a gas fireplace caused the issue. In addition to legislation, the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education was created in response.
Adair said there have been no recent carbon monoxide-related deaths in Stratford, but recalled one family falling ill.
“All four of them were sick and it showed – they called us – and it was shown it was a heat exchanger in the furnace,” he said. “Over the years, yes, we have come across probably several incidents where the carbon monoxide alarm did its job.
Alarms should be tested once per month and their batteries should be changed once per year, he said.