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Carbon monoxide alarms save lives, fire officials remind residents

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The gas that you can’t see, taste or smell continues to be a household danger that people need to protect themselves from, the Timmins Fire Department says.

Fire services across the province have spent the first week of November promoting the importance of having working carbon monoxide (CO) alarms and annual inspections to ensure gas is not leaking from home appliances.

“(It comes from) fuel-burning appliances in your home, exhaust from vehicles and from wood-burning appliances, as well,” said fire prevention officer Andrew Hubbert.

Exposure to CO leaks in the home can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea.

Depending on how much of the gas is present, symptoms can show within days, hours or minutes. In higher concentrations, carbon monoxide can quickly lead to loss of consciousness and death.

According to the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation, which promotes education around CO and pushed for alarms to be mandatory across Ontario, people are still becoming sick and dying from exposure to the gas.

“You need to protect your family,” said communications director Conrad Galambos.

“If you do not have a working CO alarm, you risk everything. Unfortunately, these tragic incidents still happen.”

It’s the law to have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms outside every sleeping area and on every floor of the home. Though Galambos said it’s difficult to enforce that for every home.

Hubbert said his fire department conducts annual inspections, to check that people have working alarms in the right places. He said crews still occasionally receive calls from people who show symptoms and don’t have alarms installed.

The recommendation is to replace carbon monoxide alarms every 10 years, change their batteries every year and to call a qualified technician to inspect household oil and natural gas-fuelled appliances annually.

Experts suggest that people also ensure that exhaust vents are clear of debris and of snow, during the winter months. 

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