Homeowner CO Alarm Awareness Poll Backgrounder

Posted on 29.04.2015 in the General category

Who Conducted the Poll?

The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education recently commissioned the ‘Homeowner CO Alarm Awareness Poll’ to measure the number of homes in Canada that have CO alarms installed, and, to uncover homeowners’ beliefs about CO alarm replacement requirements.

Why was the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation Created?

In 2008, OPP officer Laurie Hawkins, her husband Richard and children Cassandra and Jordan, were killed due to a faulty fireplace vent in their home. They did not have a CO alarm. It was one of Canada’s worst ever household CO tragedies.

The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education was created by Laurie’s uncle, John Gignac, a veteran firefighter from Brantford, Ontario. In memory of his lost family members, he pledged to educate Canadians on the dangers of carbon monoxide gas focusing on its sources, symptoms, statistics, prevention and detection.

What did the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation hope to learn from the Poll?

The Foundation wanted to measure the number of homes in Canada that have CO alarms installed, and, to uncover homeowners’ beliefs about CO alarm replacement and other maintenance requirements. Key to the poll is to gauge the impact of Ontario’s one-year-old mandatory CO alarm law, and to take the pulse on the CO landscape across the country.

How was the Poll Conducted and By Whom?

The poll was conducted between August 27 and September 2, 2015, using a sample of 2001 adult homeowners within Canada from an Ipsos Canadian online panel. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe.

The poll specifically focused on homes containing at least one fuel-burning device or attached garage, where the risk of carbon monoxide is present, and results tabulated for Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (combined), Alberta, BC and Ontario.


Primary Questions in the Poll?

  1. Do you have a furnace, fireplace or other appliance in your home that burns wood, oil, propane or natural gas for heat or energy, or an attached garage?
  2. Do you have a carbon monoxide alarm, or a combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarm installed in your home?
  3. What is the approximate age of your carbon monoxide alarm or combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarm(s)?
  4. On average, how often should you replace your carbon monoxide alarms and combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms
  5. Assuming there is no emergency, has your carbon monoxide alarm or combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarm ever beeped for no apparent reason?



Prevalence of CO Alarms in Canadian Homes

Of respondents who said they had at least one potential source of CO, the national average of 84 per cent said they have at least one carbon monoxide alarm.

Regional Breakdown:

85% 78% 77% 94% 70% 69%

Note: These percentages will include respondents who are not eager to admit they’re not properly protecting their families from CO or are even confused about the difference between a CO alarm and Smoke alarm.

Approximate Age of CO Alarms

According to the poll, many CO alarms seem to have been purchased in very recent years. Which indicates awareness of CO dangers is on the rise among Canadians. However, many respondents are relying on CO alarms that are getting dangerously old. Nationally, just under one-half (49 per cent) report their carbon monoxide alarms are between 1-4 years old. On average, 11 per cent report that their alarm is 10-years-old or older, or, don’t know how old their alarm is. As recommended by the National Fire Protection Association, all CO alarms should be replaced every 7-10 years depending on the brand.

CO Alarm Replacement Awareness

  • 61 per cent of Canadians are misinformed about replacement
  • 22 per cent admit they don’t know when a CO alarms needs to be replaced
  • 17 per cent are aware of the 7-10 year replacement requirement

This breaks down regionally as follows:

Misinformed 69% 64% 68% 60% 49% 68%
Don’t Know 22% 23% 25% 20% 27% 26%
Aware 8% 13% 7% 21% 24% 6%

Meaning of a CO Alarm’s Beep

There is much confusion among homeowners about what a CO alarm beep could mean in a NON-EMERGENCY situation. This is revealing in that newer CO alarm technology features an end-of-life beep, that advises homeowners that the time is approaching to replace their CO alarm.

Nationally, 24 per cent of poll respondents say they have experienced CO alarm beeps that are not related to a CO emergency.

When asked what this beep might indicate, of this group most (78 per cent) think it means the battery needs to be replaced. Twenty-six per cent believe it could mean the alarm is defective while 17 per cent think it could be a false alarm. Twelve per cent say they don’t know what it could mean. More than one-third (38 per cent) understand this could mean that the alarm itself needs to be replaced.

Only one-in-five (20 per cent) know that more modern CO alarm technology features a beep to warn the homeowner that the alarm is nearing the end of its lifespan and should be replaced.

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