Hawkins-Gignac Foundation Responds to Calgary Incident
The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for Carbon Monoxide Education is urging all Albertans to take immediate steps to ensure their household is protected from the “silent killer” following January’s carbon monoxide scare in Calgary’s Mount Royal neighbourhood.
“The five people who narrowly escaped tragedy today are fortunate. A working carbon monoxide alarm, that is within its recommended lifespan, is the only safe way to detect dangerous levels of this deadly gas in your home. Without one, you’re putting your family’s safety at risk,” says John Gignac, Executive Director of the Ontario-based Foundation.
Gignac has been advocating for a universal standard in Canada which makes CO alarms mandatory for every household that has potential CO sources, regardless of the age of a home. Currently only Ontario and the Yukon have broad legislation in place that protects all citizens equally.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is called the “silent killer” because you can’t see, smell or taste it. It is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America. Each year it proves fatal for dozens of Canadians, and, makes many more thousands sick with what they think is the flu.
“Even when it when it doesn’t kill, once carbon monoxide enters your blood, it can have a cumulative affect and have dangerous long term consequences,” adds Gignac.
The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation provides these precautions:
- Heating systems or appliances that use gas, oil, wood, coal or any other kind of fossil-fuel produce carbon monoxide during combustion. Sources of CO in your home can include a furnace, water heater, wood stove, wood or gas fireplace, oven and automotive exhaust. Have everything inspected annually including flues and vents.
- The ONLY safe way to detect carbon monoxide is a carbon monoxide alarm.
- Like smoke alarms, CO alarms do not last forever. Lifespans range from 7-10 years depending on the manufacturer.
- Exposure to carbon monoxide mimics the flu and reduces your ability to think clearly. Never delay if your CO alarm goes off or you sense there’s a problem. Evacuate at once and call 911. Do not open windows and doors before emergency crews arrive.
“I’m urging all Canadians to check their CO alarms to ensure they are in working order and not past their expiry date. And if your home has potential CO sources and you don’t have at least one CO alarm, buy one today. It’s cheap insurance to prevent a tragedy in your home,” says Gignac.
The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation was established in honour of the memory of the victims of one of the worst CO incidents in Canadian history. John Gignac’s niece Laurie Hawkins, her husband Richard and their two children Cassandra and Jordan all died from CO poisoning in December 2008. A blocked chimney vent forced carbon monoxide from their gas fireplace back into their home.