Two recent incidents prove Carbon Monoxide poisoning is NOT just a cold weather risk

Aug 02, 2011, 18:18 ET from The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education

Sault Ste. Marie residents avert tragedy by installing CO alarms per new bylaw

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BRANTFORD, ON, Aug. 2, 2011 /PRNewswire/ - Back-to-back carbon monoxide incidents in an Ontario city within one week of each other reaffirm what safety officials keep telling Canadians:  the risk of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning is not only a danger linked to cold weather and furnaces.

In both emergencies in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario faulty rental water heaters were the source of the deadly carbon monoxide gas.

The latest near-tragedy involved Dana Melanson, her daughter Jordan, her sister Darlene and their two dogs.  They very likely owe their lives to the recently enacted bylaw in Sault Ste. Marie that makes carbon monoxide alarms mandatory for all dwellings, says John Gignac, co-chair of the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education based in Brantford, Ontario.

"Without a carbon monoxide alarm, they would have been unaware of the deadly gas," Gignac says.  "It is called the silent killer because it is colourless, odorless and tasteless.  The only way it can be detected by humans is with a CSA-approved CO alarm."

Years ago, as a teenager, Melanson lost a close friend to CO poisoning.  "Because of that experience, and what just happened to me in my own home, I'm grateful the city made carbon monoxide alarms the law here.  The bylaw is what prompted me to install a new CO detector," she says.

When her Kidde carbon monoxide alarm went off, at first Melanson was not sure what to do.  "I had pushed buttons several times, but it kept going off.  It scared me.  At first I thought perhaps the alarm was faulty because there was no odour.  That's when I called the fire department," she explains.  "To their credit, they arrived within minutes."

The Sault Ste. Marie emergency response team recorded CO levels as high as 30 parts per million. "The levels were peaking when the water heater came on," says Paul Milosevich, Sault Ste. Marie Assistant Fire Chief - Fire Prevention and Public Education.

Milosevich adds, "The fact these exposures involve faulty water heaters really hammers the message home that it's not just people with furnaces who need to protect their families.  Our bylaw makes working CO alarms mandatory for every dwelling with a fuel-burning appliance of any kind, or, with an attached garage."

John Gignac says his Foundation advocates that carbon monoxide alarms be made the law for every Canadian home.  The retired firefighter has pushed for mandatory CO alarm legislation in Ontario since his niece, Ontario Provincial Police constable Laurie Hawkins, perished along with her husband and two children in Woodstock, Ontario in December 2008. It was one of Canada's worst ever carbon monoxide tragedies. 

"Carbon monoxide can strike at any time of year, not just during cold winter months," Gignac says.  "Canadians are at risk during the summer too, due to the high number of gas appliances in our homes, cottages, trailers and even boats.  Water heaters, stoves, fireplaces and car or boat engines put every family at risk.  I congratulate the town of Sault Ste. Marie for its leadership, its fire department for its focus on public education, and these homeowners for taking the bylaw seriously," he adds.

Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman, who authored the original Ontario bill that would make CO alarms mandatory province-wide, says, "It's a relief to see a CO headline where the outcome was not the death of a loved one.  I encourage everyone to protect their family with a carbon monoxide alarm…law or no law.  We remain committed to our push to see a mandatory CO alarm law passed for all of Ontario."

Consumers can find further online carbon monoxide safety resources at www.endthesilence.ca and www.safeathome.ca

Dana Melanson purchased a Kidde carbon monoxide alarm to protect her family.  Carol Heller is a safety expert with the company, the country's largest manufacturer of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.  Heller offers these CO summer safety tips:

  1. Have all fuel-burning appliances inspected annually by a licensed professional.  Boaters with watercraft that have sleeping quarters, generators and/or inboard gas engines should also have annual inspections.
  2. Replace Kidde carbon monoxide alarms every 7 years, per CSA certification.  CO alarms from other manufacturers must be replaced every 5 years.
  3. Replace batteries in CO alarms at least once annually
  4. Consider purchasing CO alarms that have a digital display, which will alert you before harmful levels of the invisible gas are reached
  5. Install CO alarms on watercraft that have sleeping quarters, generators and/or inboard gas engines.  And remember, the boat moored next to you could also be a source of CO so stay safe in any marine situation.
  6. If your CO alarm sounds, evacuate immediately and call 911.

SOURCE The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education