Fire chief hopes Carbon Monoxide detector use grows
An initiative to install carbon monoxide detectors in all Saskatchewan health facilities is a positive initiative that will hopefully be followed even by people in private residences.
The province announced on Jan. 13 that carbon monoxide detectors are being added to all health facilities as a measure to reduce the risk of being accidentally exposed to carbon monoxide.
The initiative comes in response to the deaths of two long-term care facility residents in Humboldt where carbon monoxide build-up was a factor in their deaths.
The province points out that Health Region facility managers are currently in the process of buying and installing standard residential carbon monoxide detectors. The province and the Health Regions will also seek expert advice about the type, number, location, and integration of CO monitors needed in their buildings, and develop longer-term plans to protect again carbon monoxide.
“It is a good thing. It’s fantastic that they’re doing that,” Swift Current Fire Department Fire Chief Denis Pilon said after learning about the provincial initiative.
“Carbon Monoxide is colourless, odorless. There is no way of knowing it’s in your house other than a detector. So you need to have one.”
Carbon Monoxide problems occur in fuel-burning appliances like furnaces and water heaters if they are not vented properly or if they are not burning properly. Vehicles idling in enclosed garages are also locations where carbon monoxide is present, and even vehicles running with the garage door wide open can have problems occur when exhaust fumes are pushed into the home.
Chief Pilon noted that the current building code only requires carbon monoxide detectors outside the bedroom in newly constructed homes, and other homes being retrofitted also require an upgrade to include carbon monoxide detectors. However, these regulations do not apply to existing buildings, and there is nothing in the fire code either for carbon monoxide detectors.
When Pilon was Fire Chief in Weyburn he recalls a tragic instance of the dangers of carbon monoxide in the late 1990s when one individual died in a private residence after a chimney had collapsed because of a lack of maintenance. Furnace gases were being pumped into the house instead of being vented out the chimney resulting in the fatality.
Chief Pilon notes that members of the Swift Current Fire Department responds to an average of two or three calls per month to check carbon monoxide levels.
He said that homeowners who have a carbon monoxide detector alarm go off, they attend homes utilizing sensitive equipment that is calibrated on a weekly basis.
“When we come and do a test we’re coming with a calibrated meter thats got a lot more technology than the one you’ve got on your wall. The one that you’ve got on your wall is just telling you there is something wrong that you need to get checked out.
“And that something wrong might be a dead battery, or it might be a faulty detector, or it might be that you’ve got something in the air. If it’s beeping, give us a call. We’ll gladly come.”
“I’d sooner respond and find out there’s nothing in the air, than have to go haul a body out of a building, and I’ve done that. It’s never nice doing that.”
He said this important safety measure is one that should not be overlooked.