Beat the silent killer: Pre­vent car­bon monox­ide in your home


Car­bon monox­ide (CO) is a silent killer. Keep the lethal gas from your home by get­ting all fuel-burn­ing ap­pli­ances in­spected an­nu­ally. In On­tario, more than 65% of in­juries and deaths from CO oc­cur in the home. In­stall CO alarms in your home if you have a fuel-burn­ing ap­pli­ance, a fire­place or an at­tached garage. Fuel-burn­ing ap­pli­ances can in­clude fur­naces, hot wa­ter heaters, gas or wood fire­places, por­ta­ble fuel-burn­ing heaters and gen­er­a­tors, bar­be­cues, stoves and ve­hi­cles.

You must have a work­ing CO alarm ad­ja­cent to each sleep­ing area of the home if your home has a fuel-burn­ing ap­pli­ance, a fire­place or an at­tached garage. For added pro­tec­tion, in­stall a car­bon monox­ide alarm on ev­ery storey of the home ac­cord­ing to man­u­fac­turer’s in­struc­tions.

What is CO? CO is known as the silent killer be­cause it is an in­vis­i­ble, taste­less and odour­less gas that can be deadly.

CO is pro­duced when fu­els such as propane, gaso­line, nat­u­ral gas, heat­ing oil or wood do not burn com­pletely in fuel-burn­ing ap­pli­ances and de­vices. Check that all out­side ap­pli­ance vents are not blocked. Gas and char­coal bar­be­cues should only be used out­side, away from all doors, win­dows, vents, and other build­ing open­ings. Never use bar­be­cues in­side garages, even if the garage doors are open.

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 the flue be­fore us­ing a fire­place for ad­e­quate ven­ti­la­tion. Never run a ve­hi­cle or other fu­elled en­gine or mo­tor in­side a garage, even if the garage doors are open. Al­ways re­move a ve­hi­cle from the garage im­me­di­ately af­ter start­ing it. Know the symp­toms of CO: Ex­po­sure to CO can cause flu-like symp­toms such as headaches, nau­sea, dizzi­ness, as well as con­fu­sion, drowsi­ness, loss of con­scious­ness and death.

If your CO alarm sounds, and you or other oc­cu­pants suf­fer from symp­toms of CO poi­son­ing, get ev­ery­one out of the home im­me­di­ately. Then call 9-1-1 or your lo­cal emer­gency ser­vices num­ber from out­side the build­ing.

If your CO alarm sounds, and no one is suf­fer­ing from symp­toms of CO poi­son­ing, check to see if the bat­tery needs re­plac­ing, or the alarm has reached its "end-of-life" be­fore call­ing 9-1-1. 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 your CO alarm 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.

For more CO safety tips, visit the Of­fice of the Fire Mar­shal and Emer­gency Man­age­ment’s web­site and

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