Carbon Monoxide (CO) Awareness Week runs from November 1 to 7 in B.C., and the Chilliwack Fire Department has several tips to keep families safe.
CO is known as a ‘silent killer’ because it is an invisible, tasteless, and odourless gas that can be deadly. It is produced when fuels like propane, gasoline, natural gas, heating oil, or wood don’t burn completely in fuel-burning appliances and devices.
CO inhibits the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen. At low levels, effects include flu-like symptoms such as tiredness, headaches, shortness of breath, and impaired motor functions.
At higher levels, or if you are exposed to low levels for long periods of time, you can experience dizziness, chest pain, poor vision, and difficulty thinking.
At very high levels, CO can cause convulsions, coma, and death.
To guard against all of this, the Chilliwack Fire Department recommends proper maintenance of all fuel-burning appliances plus the installation of CO alarms. Alarms should be used in any home with a wood or gas-fired fireplace, an attached garage, or any other fuel-burning appliance, such as furnaces, hot water heaters, or dryers.
A working CO alarm should be installed on every storey of a home and next to each sleeping area. Make sure to test and clean your carbon monoxide alarms regularly and replace them according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Prevent CO in your home
• Ensure fuel-burning appliances, chimneys, and vents are properly maintained, as well as cleaned and inspected annually. Visit technicalsafetybc.ca to find a licensed contractor near you.
• Check that all outside appliance vents are not blocked.
• 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 a chimney flue before using a fireplace for adequate ventilation.
• 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.
Know the sound of your CO alarm
• If your CO alarm sounds, and you or other occupants are suffering from symptoms of CO poisoning, get everyone out of the home immediately. Then call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number from outside.
• 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.
• 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 the 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.
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