Test your carbon monoxide detector regularly

An image of carbon monoxide detector.
Several provinces celebrate a Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week in November. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the number one cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America.

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Carbon monoxide poisoning is the number one cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America. Know the facts.

 What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. It is produced by gas or oil furnaces, space and water heaters, clothes dryers, ovens, wood stoves and other household appliances that run on fossil fuels such as wood, gas, oil or coal.

 Why is carbon monoxide so deadly?

When you inhale carbon monoxide, it can cause brain damage, suffocation or death. Because you cannot see, smell or taste this deadly gas, poisoning can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Everyone is at risk but pregnant women, young children, senior citizens and people with heart and lung problems are at greater risk. If your home is well sealed or not well ventilated, the levels of carbon monoxide in the air may easily rise to deadly levels.

 Warning signs

Carbon monoxide poisoning and the flu seem a lot alike at first. Early warning signs of low-level poisoning include tiredness, headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting and shortness of breath. Your skin may also turn pink or red in response to rising blood pressure. If you experience any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and should call 9-1-1 as well as talk to your doctor.

 Protect yourself

Install at least one carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home, especially outside sleeping areas. There are several types of detectors, including battery-operated and plug-in models. Install the carbon monoxide detector according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Have a qualified service technician inspect and clean your fuel-burning appliances, furnace, vent pipe and chimney flues once a year. Bird nests, twigs and old mortar in chimneys can block proper ventilation and lead to build-up of carbon monoxide gas in the home.

Maintenance

Test your carbon monoxide detector regularly to make sure it is operating properly. The owner’s manual should tell you how to test your alarm. Remember to check the manual for information on when to buy a new carbon monoxide detector.

 What should you do if the detector alarm sounds?

If the detector sounds, you and all members of your household should leave your home immediately. From outside the home, call 9-1-1. Don’t go back inside until the problem has been found and corrected. The Fire Services will inspect your home to find the source of the carbon monoxide.

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