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Carbon Monoxide – safety, symptoms & emergency preparedness

For immediate release: July 11, 2019 - 1:53pm

The Saskatoon Fire Department knows that working carbon monoxide alarms save lives.

Carbon monoxide alarms are intended to alert you to the possibility of an odourless, colourless, tasteless, and poisonous gas in your home. Be sure to become familiar with the sound of your carbon monoxide alarm.

“Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed outside each sleeping area and are most effective when interconnected throughout your home,” says Fire Chief Morgan Hackl.  

“Test your carbon monoxide alarms monthly, changing the batteries every year or as needed, and the entire alarm should be replaced every seven years or as required.”

Chief Hackl says there are some practical ways to keep your home free of carbon monoxide:

  • Ensure gas equipment and appliances are properly installed, maintained, and inspected by a licensed contractor,
  • Keep furnace, water heater, chimney vents and pipes free of obstructions, such as leaves, debris or nests and frost, snow, and ice in winter months
  • Follow manufacturer directions for proper operation and care of all heating equipment and appliances,
  • Only use generators, barbeques and portable propane heaters outside, and
  • Never leave a vehicle or fueled engine running while indoors.

Some of the symptoms resulting from prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide include headache, fatigue, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. When undetected and left untreated, carbon monoxide can result in permanent injury or death.

The Saskatoon Fire Department responds to carbon monoxide incidents regularly. Most incidents involving carbon monoxide are quickly mitigated; however, some do require additional resources or action.

Chief Hackl says the Saskatoon Fire Department has about 140 primary care paramedics. Each fire engine responds with at least one firefighter-paramedic and comes equipped with a carbon monoxide monitor capable of determining the parts-per-million (PPM) concentration of carbon monoxide present in the air.

“Firefighter-paramedics can also measure the carboxyhemoglobin level in the blood of a patient experiencing the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning,” Hackl says. “They use a non-invasive medical assessment tool at the scene and immediately begin appropriate treatment based on that assessment.”

In 2018, the Saskatoon Fire Department responded to 274 carbon monoxide incidents. By mid-July, the number of carbon monoxide incidents in 2019 was 126. Carbon monoxide incidents account for approximately two per cent of all incidents that the Saskatoon Fire Department responds to.

If your carbon monoxide alarm is sounding or if you believe you are experiencing the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, evacuate all occupants and pets from the home and immediately call 911.

In an emergency, seconds count; a functioning carbon monoxide alarm can be the difference in preventing a tragedy in your home.