Carbon Monoxide Detectors and Fire Detectors

Rachel in Legal

It is not just the law, but good common sense.  Make sure you have both a carbon monoxide alarm and a fire alarm in your house.  Make sure you maintain the batteries.  Check the batteries - it may be helpful to do this when you set your clocks back/forward.  Whether you are a home owner, a renter or soon to be owner, if you live somewhere with a heat source, you need a carbon monoxide alarm.  I think enough has been written on the subject to alert you to the fact that this is a serious issue, but allow me to share a personal story that will perhaps put a more tangible face on what can sound like every other cautionary tale.  Just in case you think 'it can't happen to me...' 

In the October of my 14th year, I began feeling ill.  I was tired, I would throw up in the morning.  I was groggy and moody.  This was largely chalked up to being a teenager and having teen-aged angst combined with a cold whose symptoms had appeared with the onset of the cooler weather.  Maybe even the flu. 

Interestingly, and only in retrospect, I realized that I often felt much better in the afternoons, only to wake up the following morning with the same groggy, listless feeling. 

I was taken to doctor after doctor with no resolution.  Once medical reasons had been ruled out, it was abundantly clear that I had simply turned into a moody teen. 

After a couple months of intermittent furnace use, my mother decided to switch our water heater from electric to gas.  I am alive today because of the technician who came to our house.  He walked past the furnace, on his way to the water tank, and the way he described it, ‘felt a slight breeze’ on his hand.  It took him a moment, but he registered the fact that the furnace exhaust was actually flowing in to the house.  He started shouting for everyone to get out and called appropriate authorities.  We were taken to the hospital and blood work was done.  We were told by the doctors that one more night in the house and we would simply not have woken up the next morning.

What happened? 

The preceding summer, some contractors had come in to do some work.  Specifically, they were installing a bathroom on the basement level of the house.  In order to fit the additional wall, they had repositioned the furnace, but without proper regard for the position of the exhaust.  Such a simple oversight, yet the consequences could have been horrific.

A carbon monoxide alarm would have alerted us to the danger well before it became critical.  It would have also saved me months of wondering why I was so tired and sick.  The same can be said for fire/smoke alarms.  Early detection will allow you to make it out of the house, hopefully with enough time to avoid serious injury.      

Needless to say, we did not have a carbon monoxide alarm in our house.  Although my story did not end at 14 years old, that is only the case because of a quick thinking technician and maybe a little luck. 

Go get an alarm.  If you forgot to change your alarm batteries when you reset your clock, here is your reminder.      

Rachel Loizos is an associate lawyer at Sotos LLP in Toronto. She practices in the area of real estate law. Email Rachel

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