Earlier this year, the City of Vancouver updated its bylaws to make carbon monoxide detectors mandatory for all buildings with gas-fueled appliances or attached garages. This comes after 4 people died from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in March and a recent slew of close calls in Vancouver. This means that buildings or houses with residential occupancy must meet minimum requirements based on proximity to a gas appliance or garage. In many cases, multiple detectors are required to ensure proper compliance and safety.
Many people think that they can detect carbon monoxide on their own, as is the case with natural gas which has a pungent odour. But carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless, and a highly toxic gas. When inhaled, it prevents the transfer of oxygen through the blood to the cells in the body. In North America, it is the leading cause of accidental poisoning death.
Some sources of CO include car exhaust fumes from idling cars, wood or gas-fueled appliances such as cooking ranges and water heaters, and fireplaces or furnaces without proper venting. If any of your gas appliances are malfunctioning, you should have them serviced right away. Even if you do not have a gas- fueled appliance, it is possible for carbon monoxide to leak into your home.
You can get your own electrical carbon monoxide detector at any hardware store that plugs into a standard electrical outlet, but it should have a battery pack in case of a power outage. If your detector goes off, you and everyone in the home should exit immediately and call 9-1-1. Check that no one is experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, such as dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, confusion, or blurred vision. It is a good idea to try and shut off the carbon monoxide at the source and ventilate the home by opening all the windows and doors.
In addition to the new carbon monoxide detector bylaw, the city is increasing penalties for other fire related behaviour in an effort to curb exorbitant or unnecessary use of city services. For examples, home owners can be fined $750 per day for leaving a house unsecured, $500 for falsely setting off a fire alarm, and $500 for discarding burning materials, such as tossing a cigarette butt out of a car.
To learn more about the new bylaws, you can read about them on City of Vancouver website here. For helpful diagrams on how many and where to place carbon monoxide detectors, check out this City of Burnaby brochure.