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November 2014

CO Alarms Become Law in Ontario

Family Legacy Protects Ontarians from Carbon Monoxide – New Provincial Law Now in Effect

Ottawa – With the announcement of the province’s new carbon monoxide (CO) law – Bill 77, The Hawkins-Gignac Act – two families are confident that Ontarians are now much less likely to experience a tragedy like the one that shattered their lives back in the winter of 2008.

OPP Constable Laurie Hawkins, her husband Richard and their children Cassie and Jordan all died from CO poisoning in Woodstock, Ontario in December 2008. The vent leading from their gas fireplace was clogged causing the deadly gas to seep back into their home. They didn’t know they were in danger because carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless. And they did not have a carbon monoxide alarm.

John Gignac, uncle to Laurie Hawkins and a retired firefighter, has been working tirelessly to warn all Ontarians about the dangers of CO since that heart-breaking day. He joined the Honourable Yasir Naqvi, MPP (Ottawa Centre), Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services and Ted Wieclawek, Ontario Fire Marshal and Chief of Emergency Management, at the official announcement at a neighborhood Home Hardware store in Ottawa.

“We are solaced knowing that something good has come from something so tragic, that the loss in our family is not in vain,” said Gignac, co-chair, Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education.

This is a major milestone in a nearly six-year journey. Now, carbon monoxide alarms are mandatory in all homes in Ontario with fuel burning appliances (wood, gas, propane, oil) or attached garages. While the revision to the Ontario Fire Code comes into effect October 15th there is phase-in compliance period for homeowners and landlords. The new law supersedes any existing municipal by-laws.

Similar to Ontario’s smoke alarm law, homes found not to be protected with a CO alarm after the compliance period will put the property owner at risk of being fined.

“The fatal effects of carbon monoxide left us with an irreplaceable family loss. We are comforted that their legacy will protect others. Now it is up to everyone to remember my family’s story, recognize the importance of CO alarms and follow the new law to help us combat this silent killer.”

MPP Ernie Hardeman, whose Oxford riding was shocked by news of the family’s accident, was first to push for new CO legislation, and ultimately he received all party support for his Private Members Bill. “We are grateful the law is being formally enacted, but now it’s up to every Ontario resident to determine if they are at risk of carbon monoxide – that means if you have any type of fuel-burning appliance, or attached garage,” Hardeman says. “If you do, you must install carbon monoxide alarms outside sleeping areas. As well, take responsibility for regular maintenance and inspections of equipment and heating systems.”

“Although this is a major step for Ontario, our job is not done,” Gignac says. “Our Foundation will be supporting the new law through persistent educational programs.”

The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education encourages homeowners to follow these CO safety tips:

  • Don’t wait for the enforcement date of Ontario’s new CO law. Ensure your family is protected, by installing carbon monoxide alarms outside bedrooms. For optimal protection, install a CO alarm on every storey.
  • Check the expiry date of existing CO alarms, and replace any devices built before 2008. CO alarms need to be replaced every 7-10 years depending on the brand.
  • Have a licenced technician inspect your fuel burning appliances (re. furnace, range, fireplace, water heater) annually, to ensure they are in proper working order and vented correctly.
  • For families with older parents or relatives, help them inspect their CO alarms.
  • Replace batteries in your CO alarm annually, or opt for models with 10-year sealed lithium batteries that never need to be changed.
  • In the event a CO alarms sounds, get everyone out of the house, stay out and call 911! Exposure to CO reduces your ability to think clearly, so never delay if your alarm goes off and you sense a problem.

Visit the Foundation’s website at www.endthesilence.ca and watch for their announcements about the first annual Carbon Monoxide Awareness week which runs from November 1-7, 2014.

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CO Alarms Become Law in Ontario

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