Carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer because it is an invisible, tasteless and odourless gas that can be deadly. November is Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month in Alberta.
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 such as furnaces, fireplaces, hot water heaters, stoves, barbeques, portable heaters and generators or vehicles.
What to do if the CO alarm sounds
- Exposure to CO can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea and 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.
How to prevent the build-up of CO in your home
- Ensure fuel-burning appliances, chimneys and vents are cleaned and inspected by professionals every year before cold weather sets in.
- Ensure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, fireplace and other fuel-burning appliances are always be clear of snow and other debris.
- Gas and charcoal barbeques must be used outside, away from all doors, windows, vents, and other building openings. Never use barbeques inside garages, even if the garage doors are open.
- Portable fuel-burning generators must 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 the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Never use the stove or oven to heat your home.
- Open the flu for adequate ventilation before using a fireplace .
- Never run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor inside a garage, even if the garage doors are open. Always remove a vehicle from the garage immediately after starting it.
Testing and replacing CO alarms
- Test CO alarms every month by pressing the test button.
- Replace batteries every year. Replace CO alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Know the sound of the 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.
- Know the difference between the CO alarm’s low-battery warning, end-of-life warning and an emergency alarm – consult the CO alarm manufacturer’s instructions.
For more information on fire safety in Alberta, contact your municipality’s fire or emergency service or the Office of the Fire Commissioner at 1-800-421-6929, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.ofc.alberta.ca and select Public Education tab.