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Keeping safe and warm this winter

By Melissa Schilz, Postmedia Network

Deputy Chief Tim Williams is encouraging everyone to be safe as we approach colder months. (File photo)

Deputy Chief Tim Williams is encouraging everyone to be safe as we approach colder months. (File photo)

Ontario’s Carbon Monoxide Awareness week just ended, running from Nov. 1-7, and the Petrolia and North Enniskillen Fire Department were working to remind residents of safety precautions you can take to prevent CO in your home.

With winter well on its way, it’s time to fire up the furnace to keep warm. But fuel burning appliances should first be inspected to ensure they’re safe.

In a report from Deputy chief Tim Williams, he said more than 65 per cent of injuries and deaths from CO occur in the home, and on average, 11 people die in the province each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is produced when carbon based fuels are incompletely burned. These include wood, propane, natural gas, heating oil, coal, kerosene, charcoal and gasoline.

Williams said the Petrolia and North Enniskillen Fire Department respond to a number of CO alarm calls every year, and while most calls are due to faults with the alarm, they have responded to a number of calls where levels of CO were indeed dangerous and deadly.

He said these calls in the area have found blocked chimney piping on fireplaces and wood stoves, malfunctioning gas furnaces and gas water heaters, vehicles left running in an attached garage, using gas stoves to heat a home as well as incorrectly working gas inserts on fire places.

Williams urges residents ensure they know difference between the sound of your CO and smoke alarms. A low battery will be indicated by a chirp every one to three minutes.

Alarms should be tested monthly to ensure they’re in proper working order. CO alarms normally expire after about seven years, where smoke alarms expire about every 10.

But if your alarm does go off and you’re unsure if the beep means a low battery or an emergency, call 911 – Williams said the fire department will respond to make sure your home is safe.

“Our firefighters are instructed to encourage residents to call 911 when their alarms are going off,” he said in his report. “Our main reason for this is simple – if there is CO in the house, it can be very dangerous and proper equipment is required.”

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, burning eyes, confusion and drowsiness. Elderly, children and people with heart or respiratory conditions may be particularly sensitive to CO, and if you experience them, call 911 immediately.