By Tyler J. Moffitt,
The Safety Advocate
September is upon us and school has started. Many young people are attending college and university—many for the very first time.
Thousands of students across Canada also are living away from home.
Safety is a concern for most parents/caregivers, and every student should know basic fire and life safety information, as well as practice safety.
For starters, ensure students have correctly installed and maintained working smoke alarms inside and outside of all sleeping areas, as well as on all levels of the dwelling they will be residing in.
It’s also vital to have a well-rehearsed escape plan, with two ways out of each room and no blocked exits.
Bathrooms usually are the only exception as many only have one exit.
It doesn’t matter what province or territory you reside in, I strongly advise you to visit the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal website at www.ofm.gov.on.ca
Click on Public Fire Safety Information in the Fire Safety & Public Education box, and read their document on Safe Student Accommodations.
It has some very valuable and important information that could someday save a life!
Meanwhile, keeping safe from the “silent killer” (carbon monoxide) is of vital importance. It’s often referred to as the “silent killer” because carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, and toxic gas.
I’ve talked to four people who experienced carbon monoxide poisoning. They are very lucky to be alive today as three of them barely made it out of the residence they were in.
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete combustion of fuels such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal, gasoline, or wood.
The incomplete combustion can occur in any device that depends on burning for energy or heat, such as furnaces, room heater, fireplaces, hot water heaters, stoves or grills, and any gas-powered vehicle or engine.
Automobiles left running in attached garages, gas/charcoal barbecues operated inside the house, grills or kerosene heaters that are not properly vented, or chimneys or vents that are dirty or plugged may create unsafe levels of CO.
The proper placement of CO alarms is important. Alarms should be located in, or as near as possible to, all sleeping areas of the home.
Additional CO alarms should be placed on each level of a residence and in other rooms where combustion devices are located, or adjacent to potential sources of CO (such as a room located adjacent to an attached garage).
Unlike smoke, which rises to the ceiling, CO mixes with air. Recognizing this, CO alarms should be located at knee-height (which is about the same as prone sleeping height).
If the alarms possibly could be tampered with or damaged by pets, children, vacuum cleaners, etc., it may be located up to chest height.
To work properly, a CO alarm should not be blocked by furniture, draperies, or other obstructions to normal airflow.
If a combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarm is used, it should be located on the ceiling to ensure it will detect smoke effectively.
Always refer to the manufacturer’s instruction for additional information regarding proper installation, use, and maintenance.
CO alarms are a good second line of defence, but do not eliminate the need for regular inspection, maintenance, and safe use of fuel-burning equipment.
For more information about carbon alarms, visit the OFM’s website.
There is an information sheet about how to keep safe from carbon monoxide poisoning on the home page in the “Announcements” box.
Tyler J. Moffitt is a volunteer firefighter and emergency responder, as well as a continuous improvement advocate.