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Beat the silent killer: prevent carbon monoxide in your home

HAMILTON, ON – In 2020, the Hamilton Fire Department responded to 893 calls for activated carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. During Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week (November 1-7), the Hamilton Fire Department is reminding residents to prevent carbon monoxide in the home by getting all fuel-burning appliances inspected annually by a registered contractor.  

All homes should have CO alarms installed if they have fuel-burning appliances, a fireplace or an attached garage. Fuel-burning appliances can include furnaces, hot water heaters, gas or wood fireplaces, portable fuel-burning heaters and generators, barbeques, stoves and vehicles.

What is CO?

  • CO is known as the silent killer because it is an invisible, tasteless and odourless gas that can be deadly.
  • CO is produced when fuels such as propane, gasoline, natural gas, heating oil or wood do not burn completely in fuel-burning appliances and devices.

Know the symptoms of CO

  • Exposure to CO can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, as well as confusion, drowsiness, loss of consciousness and death.   
  • If your CO alarm sounds with a beep, and you or other occupants suffer from symptoms of CO poisoning, get everyone out of the home immediately. Then call 9-1-1 from outside the building.
  • If your CO alarm sounds with a chirp and no one is suffering from symptoms of CO poisoning, check to see if the battery needs replacing, or the alarm has reached its "end-of-life" before calling 9-1-1.

Know the sound of your CO alarm

  • Your CO alarm sounds different than your smoke alarm. Test both alarms monthly and make sure everyone in your home knows the difference between the two alarm sounds especially when it beeps.
  • Do not be confused by the chirping sound of your CO alarm’s low-battery warning. Follow your CO alarm manufacturer’s instructions so you know the difference between the low-battery warning, the “end-of-life” warning, and the alarm alerting you to the presence of CO in your home.

For more information about CO alarms in your home, contact the Fire Prevention Division of the Hamilton Fire Department at 905-546-2424 ext. 1380, weekdays between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm or visit

“In Ontario, more than 65 per cent of injuries and deaths from CO occur in the home. It is important that people know what to look for and how to protect themselves: make sure to install a working carbon monoxide alarm adjacent to each sleeping area in the home if you have any have fuel-burning appliances. It’s also a good idea to install a carbon monoxide alarm on every storey of the home for added protection.” - David Cunliffe, Fire Chief, Hamilton Fire Department

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