Protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning

There is a chill in the air, the days are getting shorter and it won’t be long before it’s time to turn back the clocks. As furnaces come on and fireplaces are lit, it is important to keep carbon monoxide (CO) safety in mind.

Often referred to as the “silent killer,” CO is a highly poisonous, odourless, tasteless and invisible gas that can cause serious illness and, in severe cases, death. With more than 65 per cent of CO incidents occurring in homes, it is the leading cause of accidental deaths and poisoning in Ontario. People experiencing CO poisoning can have flu-like symptoms, including dizziness, headache, burning eyes, breathlessness, loss of consciousness and nausea.

Only a CO alarm can detect the toxic gas that may be produced by fuel-burning appliances in your home — furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, dryers and stoves. Vehicles left running in attached garages and portable generators used near open windows can also pose a risk of exposure.

If your CO alarm sounds, regardless of whether you have any symptoms of CO exposure, everyone must leave the home immediately, taking any pets with you. Once safely outside, call 911 and remain outside until firefighters arrive.

By law, all homes with a fuel-burning appliance, a fireplace or an attached garage must have a working CO alarm installed outside of all sleeping areas. Ideally, you should install a CO alarm on every level of your home.

Each year, the first week of November is recognized as Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week. It is a time to educate the public about CO safety and remind people to change the batteries in their CO and smoke alarms when they turn their clocks back at the end of daylight time (which is Nov. 1 this year).

Working alarms save lives. Much like fires, CO incidents are preventable. By following these tips, you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

• Remember to change the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms when you change your clocks — in the spring and fall.

• Test all carbon monoxide and smoke alarms each month.

• Change your carbon monoxide alarms every five years.

• Check and clean all fuel-burning appliances every year.

• During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow.

• Never heat your home with a gas stove or use a gas-powered generator inside your home.

• Never use a barbecue, charcoal or hibachi grill in the home or an enclosed area.

When it comes to CO awareness, we all have a role to play.

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