How to prevent carbon monoxide exposure

December 20, 2019

Dog sitting by fireplace.

Updated November 4, 2022

Preventative maintenance of your gas appliances can help keep you and your loved ones—including the fur kids—safe this heating season. To avoid unexpected issues, like a carbon monoxide (CO) exposure, it’s important to make servicing your gas appliances annually a top priority.

Carbon monoxide: an invisible, odourless gas

CO is produced when fuels like gasoline, propane, wood or natural gas are burned incompletely.

Unlike natural gas, which we make smell like rotten eggs, carbon monoxide has no odour or visible fumes, which makes it much harder to detect.

If exposed to CO you could experience symptoms that can be confused with the flu. This includes chronic headaches, nausea, drowsiness, impaired judgement and loss of coordination.

And just like us, our pets are vulnerable to CO too. Plus, because they’re smaller and may spend more time indoors than we do, they can show signs of CO poisoning before us. Symptoms may include irritability, drowsiness, cherry red gums, lips and ears and a resistance to coming inside the house after a walk.

It’s important to seek medical attention immediately for both you and your pets if you suspect you’ve been exposed to CO in your home.

Regular maintenance will help keep your appliances running as safely and efficiently as possible, which helps prevent exposure to CO and can also save you money.

Reduce your risk of exposure

1. Have your appliances serviced once a year by a licensed gas contractor.

a. Having a Technical Safety BC licensed gas contractor inspect your appliances to make sure they’re operating safely and have proper ventilation is one of the best ways to prevent CO from being in your home.

b. Don’t have a contractor in mind? It’s easy to find a licensed 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.

3. 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.

4. Follow the instructions and recommendations in your appliance manuals.

If you suspect exposure to CO

Get outside right away if you think you've been exposed to CO. Open doors and windows on your way out, and get other people and pets out of the building. Once outside, dial 911 or FortisBC’s emergency line at 1-800-663-9911 (24 hours) and don’t go back inside until it’s safe.

FortisBC takes CO calls seriously and will investigate all potential CO problems. If there is a source of CO exposure, 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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