If you went to grade school in Alberta or recently had a child in playschool, you’re probably fairly knowledgable about what to do if your house is on fire due to the annual visit to the firehall. But would you know what to do if there is carbon monoxide in your home?
To begin with, we all know a smoke detector won’t detect carbon monoxide and that you must buy a separate alarm, but many Canadians neglect to purchase one.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is odourless, colourless, tasteless – and very poisonous. CO poising suffocates you from the inside by stopping your blood from absorbing oxygen and exposure to high levels of CO can cause brain damage or even death. If that’s enough to send you on a trip to the hardware store, here’s some guidelines for installation:
- Install at least one CO alarm, preferably outside upstairs bedrooms. Don’t install your CO alarm directly above your furnace or water heater
- Your CO alarm should be approved by a recognized certification body accredited by the Standards Council of Canada, and should carry the appropriate Certification Mark for Canada.
- When you change your clocks in October and May, test your alarm and change the batteries
- Keep in mind that CO alarms have a limited life. If you have a battery-operated CO alarm, be aware the lifespan of its batteries and sensors.
What should you do If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds?
- Open windows and doors to let fresh air in
- Ask everyone in your household if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms of CO exposure:
Drowsiness or fatigue
Loss of coordination
If someone shows symptoms, leave the building immediately and seek medical help and call 911 or your local fire department.
If you experience these symptoms inside, but feel better outdoors or away from home, you should request a CO blood test from your doctor, to determine if you were in fact exposed to carbon monoxide.
If no one has symptoms:
Reset your CO alarm and check its batteries. Keep windows and doors open to get fresh air circulating. Check to see that the damper is open on any wood burning fireplaces.
If your alarm continues to sound and you can’t find the cause, leave your windows and doors open and call an HVAC contractor to check your natural gas equipment. If an HVAC contractor isn’t available, call your local fire department
Most of all, remember CO alarms should actually be your secondary line of defense.
The regular inspection of your fuel-burning equipment and appliances by a licensed Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) contractor is the most important step in preventing the dangers of CO build up in the first place.