The Vancouver Sun reported this morning that nine people in Vancouver were being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning after using gas heaters and even a charcoal BBQ to heat their homes that had been without power for a couple of days.
The Underwriters Laboratories (UL) report that about 250 people die every year from Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is very difficult to detect in that it is odorless, colourless and tasteless… about the only physical way that you can detect it is when you start feeling flu like symptoms like headaches, tightness in your chest, dizziness, fatigue, confusion and breathing difficulties.
In terms of Carbon Monoxide detection, there are two main options…
1. Purchase a plug-in CO detector, like this one from Canadian Tire, for about $25.00. This is the cheapest and simplest way to get some level of early detection for your family. These units are local alarms only meaning that they will simply sound an alarm when CO levels climb too high. However, that is all it will do. These units rely on AA batteries to work and, according to GE, have a failure rate of about 20% (I would guess due to a combination of actual technical failure with a larger percentage of dead batteries being the culprit).
2. Have a monitored CO detector installed by Provident. These devices are much more expensive (about $200.00 per unit) but are tied into your security system. In the event of an alarm, a local alarm rings in addition to a signal being sent to our Operations Centre. Once we receive the alarm, we will send our response team out to investigate as well as call your home to check up on you and ensure that you are aware of the potential problem. Of course, because these units are connected to your alarm, they will operate through a power failure.
What should you do if your local or monitored Carbon Monoxide alarm sounds?
Irrespective of whether your CO detector is monitored or not, if it sounds, you should immediately open up some windows and ensure that your home is getting as much fresh air as possible;
If anyone feels at all ill, call 911 and ask for the Fire Department to attend… and get outside of the house while you are waiting for them to arrive.
In my own house, we use both types of detectors… a couple monitored CO detectors and a couple plug-ins (because wiring was not possible throughout the house).