End the Silence

Canadian Carbon Monoxide Foundation Responds to East Coast CO Deaths

The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for Carbon Monoxide Education is reinforcing public safety messages provided by local officials in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick about staying safe from the “silent killer” following the very recent fatalities in both provinces related to carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Sadly, carbon monoxide has taken another four Canadians,” says John Gignac, Executive Director of the Ontario-based Foundation. “Whether threats from Mother Nature such as ice storms, or everyday living, a working carbon monoxide alarm that is within its recommended lifespan is the only safe way to detect dangerous levels of this deadly gas in your home. Without one, there is no way to know if your family is at risk.”

Gignac is an advocate for a universal standard in Canada which makes CO alarms mandatory for every household that has potential CO sources, regardless of the age of a home. Currently, only Ontario and the Yukon have broad legislation in place. He has visited the East Coast on a number of occasions to talk to life safety officials and government reps about similar provincial legislation.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is called the “silent killer” because you can’t see, smell or taste it. It is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America. Each year it proves fatal for dozens of Canadians, and, makes many more thousands sick with what they think is the flu.

“Even when it doesn’t kill, once carbon monoxide enters your blood, it can have a cumulative effect and have dangerous long-term consequences,” adds Gignac.

The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation provides these precautions:

-Heating systems or appliances that use gas, oil, wood, coal or any other kind of fossil-fuel (alone or in combination) produce carbon monoxide during combustion. Sources of CO can include a furnace, water heater, wood stove, wood or gas fireplace, oven and automotive exhaust. Have everything inspected annually including flues and vents and keep vents to the outside clear of snow, ice, and debris.

-The ONLY safe way to detect carbon monoxide is an approved carbon monoxide alarm.

-Like smoke alarms, CO alarms do not last forever. Lifespans range from 7-10 years depending on the manufacturer.

-Exposure to carbon monoxide mimics the flu and reduces your ability to think clearly. Never delay if your CO alarm goes off or you sense there’s a problem. Evacuate at once and call 911. Do not open windows and doors before emergency crews arrive.

“I join provincial premiers and fire officials in urging all East Coast residents to install CO alarms outside all sleeping areas. Also check existing CO alarms to ensure they are in working order and not past their expiry date. Having CO alarms is cheap insurance to help prevent a tragedy in your home,” says Gignac.

The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation was established to honor the memory of the victims of one of the worst CO incidents in Canadian history. John Gignac’s niece Laurie Hawkins, her husband Richard and their two children Cassandra and Jordan all died from CO poisoning in December 2008. A blocked chimney vent forced carbon monoxide from their gas fireplace back into their home.

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