Carbon monoxide is known as the "silent killer" because it is colourless, odourless, and tasteless making it impossible to detect without a working carbon monoxide detector or alarm. It kills more than 50 people each year on average in Canada, including an average of 11 in Ontario. The law, also known as the Hawkins-Gignac Act, is named after a Woodstock family that died from CO poisoning in December 2008.
"We are solaced knowing that something good has come from something so tragic, that the loss in our family is not in vain," said John Gignac back in October. As the uncle of Laurie Hawkins who died in the accident along with her husband Richard and their two children, Cassie and Jordan, the retired firefighter founded the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education and worked to have CO detectors made mandatory.
Gignac says his family’s tragedy could have been avoided if they had a CO detector in their home.
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Does Your Home Need A Carbon Monoxide Detector?
Yes. Any home that has a fuel-burning appliance, or an attached garage, needs to have a CO detector. What’s a fuel-burning appliance? Fuel-burning appliances can include your furnace, space heaters, water heater, kitchen stove or grill, wood stove, dryer and fireplaces (wood or gas). The Ontario Fire Marshall estimates that many Ontario homes have four to six fuel-burning devices that produce carbon monoxide.
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Carbon Monoxide Detectors In The Home
Carbon monoxide detectors are required outside all sleeping areas, but it’s typically recommended that you have one on each floor. Detectors must be CSA-approved and should be replaced every 7-10 years depending on the brand. Just like smoke detectors, they should be tested once a month to ensure they’re working by pressing a button typically located on the front or side of the alarm.
- Unlike smoke detectors that should be installed on the ceiling because smoke rises, CO detectors can be installed at any height. But, if you buy a combo CO/smoke detector make sure you install it according to the manufacturer’s directions so that it will detect smoke effectively.
The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education offer the following CO safety tips:
- Install at least one CSA-approved CO detector outside bedrooms, though it’s recommended that you install one on each floor
- Check the expiry date of existing alarms and replace any devices built before 2008
- Have a licensed technician inspect fuel burning appliances such as furnaces, fireplaces and water heaters annually
- Help older relatives inspect their detectors
- Replace batteries annually, or opt for models with a 10-year sealed lithium batteries that don't need to be changed
- When a detector sounds, get everyone out of the house quickly and call 911. Do not delay this process as CO reduces a person's ability to think clearly.
Failing to comply with the CO alarm requirements could result in a hefty fine: up to $50,000 for individuals or $100,000 for corporations.