By: Michelle Poirier
Georgina Fire & Rescue and Enbridge Gas have partnered for Project Zero, an educational program to improve home safety and bring fire and carbon-monoxide related deaths down to zero.
Georgina Fire & Rescue Services has received 156 combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms through this program. These alarms will be installed in houses which the fire department finds do not comply with current laws.
“When we respond to a house fire, or we respond to whatever that may be, even a medical call, we always check to make sure there is a working smoke alarm,” Fire Chief Ron Jenkins said.
It is usually vulnerable residents, such as seniors, who are not in compliance with the law, Jenkins said. Five per cent of the homes the fire department responds to do not have any smoke alarms, and 14 per cent of the households have out of date alarms or do not have the required one alarm per floor. The fire department recorded 156 carbon monoxide alarm calls in Georgina in 2018.
“Nobody thinks they’ll have a fire. Nobody thinks that they’ll have a CO emergency. Many times the unfortunate part with CO is that it can present (with) flu-like symptoms,” Chief Jenkins said.
While responding to a call this past summer, Chief Jenkins said the firefighters, during their workup, noticed a PVC pipe connected to the furnace had cracked.
“The fortunate piece for this outcome was the fact that we were not in the heating season yet,” Chief Jenkins said. “Had we gone into the heating season, I am almost certain that will not have been observed. There was no carbon monoxide alarm in the home. There’s no smell; there’s no taste of carbon monoxide. So whether that would have been noticed in time, we don’t know.”
Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer because you cannot hear it, see it, smell it or taste it.
“We know that the best way to avoid carbon monoxide exposure is to eliminate it at the source by properly maintaining fuel-burning equipment and that the alarms are a critical second line of defence to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning,” Steve McGivery, Director, GTA East Operations, Enbridge Gas Inc., said in a press release.
Just last month in Ottawa, a senior was killed and his wife in critical condition from carbon monoxide poisoning in their home.
According to the Technical Standards and Safety Authority and the Ontario Fire Marshall, if your home has a fuel-burning appliance, such as a furnace, dryer, water heater, fireplace or stove, or an attached garage, you must install a carbon monoxide alarm adjacent to each sleeping area and on every storey. They also recommend annual inspections for all fuel-burning appliances in your home.