Burnaby firefighters hand out carbon monoxide alarms in bid to curb the ‘silent killer’

With the cooler weather on the way and British Columbians firing up the furnaces, firefighters in Burnaby hit the streets Friday to help educate the community about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

A colourless, odourless gas, carbon monoxide (CO) has been described as the “silent killer,” and can be produced by common household appliances such as furnaces and hot water heaters.

It kills about 50 Canadians a year, and according to alarm manufacturer Kidde Canada, puts between 20,000 and 40,000 North Americans in the hospital every year.

On Friday, Burnaby fire crews went door to door to discuss the dangers, as well as hand out free smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms to people who need them.

Kidde Canada spokesperson Sharon Cooksey joined the effort, and provided the free detectors.

“Carbon monoxide actually mixes with the air…which means that you’re breathing it in as you walk through the room,” she said.

“That’s why it’s so important to have an alarm. It doesn’t smell, it doesn’t taste, and you can’t see it. So it’s not like natural gas that has the odour added to it.”

She added that exposure to the gas can create flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea, chest pain or light-headedness.

Cooksey said even if homeowners are regularly changing the batteries, smoke and CO detectors still need to be replaced about once a decade.

Many of the homeowners the team visited on Friday either did not have a detector, or didn’t have them properly set up.

Burnaby fire Chief Joe Robertson said the exercise was “guaranteed” to save lives — pointing to how a CO alarm had helped his own family avoid tragedy in the past.

“You don’t know it’s happening until your alarm goes off. I was awoken by the alarm and I was able to get our family outside. The alarm did save our lives I believe,” he said.

“People we saw today perhaps weren’t aware as they should be about where to put their smoke alarms and what they do for them.”

Herme De Vera was one of the residents the team visited, who acknowledged just that.

“They gave me the best location, because right now we’ve just been using what’s convenient, what’s easy to reach, but probably not the safest,” he said.

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