Calgary

What you need to know about carbon monoxide detectors

Carbon monoxide detectors have been the law for new builds in Alberta since 2006, but the Calgary Fire Department says it’s critical to know how they work, where to put them, and more.

Calgary fire official recommends a plug-in unit with battery backup and a display that shows ppm

Carol Henke says the importance of carbon monoxide alarms cannot be overstated. (David Bell/CBC)

Carbon monoxide detectors have been the law for new builds in Alberta since 2006, but the Calgary Fire Department says it's critical to know how they work, where to put them, and more.

As an investigation in the carbon monoxide death of a 12-year-old Airdrie boy continues, CFD public information officer Carol Henke says it's important to know your way around an alarm.

"A lot of us don't live in newer homes or buildings and so it's all our responsibility to make sure that we have those safety mechanisms in place," Henke told The Homestretch on Monday.

Carbon monoxide can come from a lot of sources, she said.

"It's the incomplete combustion of any sort of fuel. In our homes, you have furnaces, you have hot water tanks, you have a gas stove or gas fireplace maybe, even a wood-burning fireplace if you don't have proper ventilation."

Carbon monoxide detectors start at around $25 each. Calgary fire officials say it's best to buy one that plugs in and shows parts per million (ppm) of CO. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Don't leave a running car inside a garage, she cautions, and make sure appliances are being maintained annually and cleaned.

Henke says carbon monoxide is dangerous because it's difficult to detect without an alarm.

"It's colourless, odourless, tasteless, non-irritating. You don't know it's there. You might smell the exhaust from the car but you are not smelling the carbon monoxide. It has no odour. The only way for you to know that it's a concern in your home, is with a working carbon monoxide alarm."

Put alarms near sleeping areas

Calgary fire recommends a plug-in unit with battery backup that has a display of the parts per million (ppm).

"They need to be maintained. They have a lifespan. Test it once a month to make sure it's working," Henke explained.

The symptoms of exposure are flu-like and can be fatal, especially if there is a medical condition or compromised immunity.

"In a year we can attend between 1,200 and possibly 2,000 calls. Some of them are faulty alarms, where the alarm didn't work probably and there is not actually a CO issue, but some of them definitely deal with carbon monoxide in the home."

Henke says the the alarms should be placed near sleeping areas, not the possible source of a leak, such as the furnace room.

"If it goes into alarm, you need to call 911, and the dispatcher will guide you as to what your next steps need to be."


With files from The Homestretch

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