Ontario CO alarm law hoped to inspire other provinces

A new Ontario law mandating the installation of at least one CSA-approved carbon monoxide (CO) alarm in homes with a fuel-fired device or attached garage, will hopefully lead to more provinces adopting similar legislation, says the head of a foundation dedicated to victims.

John Gignac is co-chairman of the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education, a charity he created following the death of his niece Laurie Hawkins, her husband and two children from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in 2008. A blocked gas fireplace vent forced the deadly gas back into their home. They did not have a CO alarm.

“We are optimistic this Ontario law will be the tipping point for others across Canada,” says Gignac, a former firefighter. “These deaths are preventable – and a law of this kind indicates to citizens just how serious this issue is.”

Given royal assent in November 2013, the Ontario law is expected to take effect on July 1 this year with a compliance phase-in period. The Yukon government was first in Canada to enact a carbon monoxide alarm law in early 2013, following five deaths there.

Many jurisdictions have adopted bylaws requiring carbon monoxide alarms, a good first step, Gignac believes. But provincial or even a national law is the best route to go to save lives, he says.

The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation advocates the following safety steps:

• Ensure that CO alarms are fully powered and installed outside bedrooms, not in or near furnace rooms. One per floor is optimal.

• Replace any carbon monoxide alarms manufactured before 2008. Their lifespan is 7-10 years, depending on brand.

• Have a licensed technician service heating systems, vents and appliances each year.

• Feeling like you have the flu without a fever, and feeling better when you leave the house, are telltale signs of CO in your home.

• Consider the newest technology available. The “worry free” alarms, for example, now have sealed, 10-year batteries that never need changing. And CO alarms with a continuous digital display (not push-button) let you see that your family is safe or make you aware of a CO problem before dangerous levels are reached.

More information about this topic is available at www.endthesilence.ca.

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