Keep your home safe from carbon monoxide

Fall…a time when the leaves change colours and fall to the ground, pumpkin-everything is everywhere, and furnaces are turned on, as homes are prepped for winter and the cold months ahead.

November 1 to 7 is Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, a good time to ensure that our homes are safe from carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels such as natural gas, propane, kerosene or wood. It has no smell, no colour and no taste, and can make a person feel sick, and in severe cases, can cause brain damage and even death.

Carbon monoxide builds up when our homes and workplaces are poorly ventilated. Breathing in too much can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, burning eyes, confusion, drowsiness and even loss of consciousness.

Only a carbon monoxide alarm can provide early warning, going “beep, beep, beep, beep pause beep, beep, beep, beep” when gas levels are detected as unsafe. This is different from the sound that a smoke alarm makes. Hear the difference at

If you feel carbon monoxide exposure symptoms or hear the carbon monoxide alarm sound, get outside immediately and call 9-1-1. Do not go back inside until emergency responders tells you it is safe to do so.

Install carbon monoxide alarms outside sleeping areas in homes that have fuel-burning furnaces, hot water tanks, fireplaces or attached garages. Apartment and condo buildings should have alarms installed in service rooms and outside all sleeping areas next to these service rooms.

Batteries on your alarms should be replaced as needed. Replace batteries every six months when you change your clocks for daylight savings and don’t forget to test your alarms once a month to make sure they are working. If the alarm continues to chirp after the batteries are replaced, it may mean the alarm itself may not be working properly and you may need a new one.

If you think your alarm is more than 10 years old, replace it. Alarms wear out over time and need to be replaced as per the manufacturer’s instructions – usually every 10 years.

Stay safe from carbon monoxide by making sure that all fuel-burning appliances and fireplaces are professionally installed and inspected every year, and examine and repair vents and connections.

Use gas barbecues, generators and patio heaters outside, away from anything that can catch fire, and make sure there is proper ventilation. Check the pilot light and burners to see that the flame is blue. A yellow or orange flame is a sign that the fuel is not burning completely and may be releasing carbon monoxide.

For more safety information, visit the Markham Fire and Emergency Services web page and click on Fire Safety & Emergency Preparedness.

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