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How to prevent carbon monoxide exposure

December 20, 2019

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Preventative maintenance of your natural gas appliances can help keep you and your loved ones safe this heating season. To avoid unexpected issues, like a carbon monoxide (CO) leak, taking care of your natural gas appliances is a top priority.

We’ve seen an increase in incidents involving CO that have made headlines. Recently, Anna Faris and some members of her family were experiencing what they thought was altitude sickness while at a rented home in North Lake Tahoe. When receiving medical treatment, they found out their symptoms were actually due to CO exposure. Closer to home, several people were exposed to CO in Pitt Meadows due to a problem with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. 

In both cases, these incidents could have been prevented.

Carbon monoxide: an invisible, odourless gas

Regular maintenance will help keep your appliances running as efficiently as possible which can save you money, and it can also help you avoid CO exposure.

Unlike natural gas which smells like rotten eggs, CO is a gas that you can’t see or smell, making it harder to detect. This gas is produced when fuels like natural gas, propane, wood or gasoline are burned incompletely.

If exposed to CO you could experience flu-like symptoms. This includes chronic headaches, nausea, drowsiness, impaired judgment and loss of coordination. It’s important to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect a CO leak in your home.

Reduce your risk of exposure 

  1. Service your natural gas appliances as instructed by the appliance manuals. Typically, this means once a year.  
    1. When you have your natural gas appliances serviced by a Technical Safety BC contractor, they’ll inspect your appliances to make sure they’re operating safely and have enough ventilation.
    2. Don’t have a contractor in mind? You can find a licenced natural gas contractor on our directory. 
  2. Install CO detectors in your home. This will alert you if there are elevated levels of CO and give you time to get outside into fresh air. It’s important to install CO detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms so you can hear the alarm if it goes off in the middle of the night.  
  1. Never use equipment designed for outdoor use, such as barbecues, camp stoves, propane lanterns or generators in any enclosed space. Remove vehicles and gas-powered equipment from the garage immediately after starting the engine.

If you suspect a leak

Get outside right away if you think there’s a CO leak. Open doors and windows on your way outside, and get other people and pets out of the building. 

Once outside, dial 9-1-1 for medical assistance for anyone experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning. You can also call FortisBC’s Emergency Line at 1-800-663-9911.

FortisBC takes CO calls seriously and will investigate all potential CO leaks. If there is a leak, a FortisBC technician will clear and vent the area and when it’s safe, they’ll allow you back inside. 

Learn more about carbon monoxide safety and appliance maintenance and safety.

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