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Keeping safe from carbon monoxide

Ontario’s Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week runs from Nov. 1-7 and Waterloo Fire Rescue (WFR) wants you to be informed about the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO), a highly toxic, invisible gas and the steps you can take to keep yourself safe.

What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is known as ‘the silent killer’ because it is an invisible, tasteless and odourless gas that can be deadly. Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as propane, gasoline, natural gas, heating oil or wood do not burn completely in fuel-burning appliances and devices such as furnaces, gas or wood fireplaces, hot water heaters, stoves, barbeques, portable fuel-burning heaters and generators and vehicles.

Students Living in a Laurier Residence

All residence buildings on Laurier’s Waterloo and Brantford campuses are equipped with working CO alarms.

Carbon monoxide alarms are installed in all residences if they have a fuel-fired appliance (e.g., a furnace) or have an attached garage in compliance with the Ontario Fire Code. For all high-rise residences, CO alarms are installed in units that share a wall, floor or ceiling with a room that contains a fuel-fired appliance.

Students Living Off-Campus in a Privately Rented Residence

Waterloo Fire Rescue says that working CO alarms must be installed in the home if there is a fuel-burning appliance, a fireplace or an attached garage. Fuel-burning appliances can include furnaces, hot water heaters, gas or wood fireplaces, portable fuel-burning heaters and generators, barbeques, stoves and vehicles.

Working CO alarms must be adjacent to each sleeping area if the home has a fuel-burning appliance, a fireplace or an attached garage. For added protection, WFR recommends that a carbon monoxide alarm be installed on every storey of the home according to manufacturer’s instructions.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide

If you live in a condo or apartment building with a service room, CO alarms must be installed in the service room and adjacent to each sleeping area of all homes above, below and beside the service room. In condo or apartment buildings that have a garage, CO alarms must be installed adjacent to each sleeping area of all homes above, below and beside the garage.

  • Ensure fuel-burning appliances, chimneys and vents are cleaned and inspected annually. Ask your landlord or rental agency if the property you are residing in has been inspected. Visit COSafety.ca for a list of registered contractors.
  • Check that all outside appliance vents are not blocked.
  • Gas and charcoal barbeques should only be used outside, away from all doors, windows, vents and other building openings. Never use barbeques inside garages, even if the garage doors are open.
  • Portable fuel-burning generators should only be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from windows, doors, vents and other building openings.
  • Ensure all portable fuel-burning heaters are vented properly, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Never use the stove or oven to heat your home. • Open the flu before using a fireplace for adequate ventilation.
  • Never run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor inside a garage, even if the garage doors are open.
  • Always remove a vehicle from the garage immediately after starting it.

Know the Sound of Your Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Your CO alarm sounds different than your smoke alarm. If you live off campus, test both alarms monthly and make sure everyone in your home knows the difference between the two alarm sounds. Don’t be confused by the sound of your CO alarm’s low-battery warning. Follow your CO alarm manufacturer’s instructions so you know the difference between the low-battery warning, the end-of-life warning and the alarm alerting you to the presence of CO in your home.

Know the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Exposure to CO can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, as well as confusion, drowsiness, loss of consciousness and death.

If your CO alarm sounds, and you or other occupants suffer from symptoms of CO poisoning, get everyone out of the home immediately. Then call 9-1-1 or your local emergency services number from outside the building. I

f your CO alarm sounds and no one is suffering from symptoms of CO poisoning, check to see if the battery needs replacing or the alarm has reached its end-of-life before calling 9-1-1.


Students with questions or concerns regarding to carbon monoxide and detection may contact Eric Yates, emergency management and fire safety officer in Laurier’s Safety, Health and Environment and Risk Management (SHERM) Office.

Additional Resources