I have been remiss with regard to a very important issue. Today, I hope to correct that.
You may recall that back in the fall, we had a problem with our furnace. It was the first problem we’d had in ten years of ownership, which, I suppose, is pretty good. In the course of dealing with that breakdown, we discovered the problem was causing a carbon monoxide leak into our house. Fortunately, we had the problem seen to immediately, and it was also lucky for us that this breakdown happened in the daytime, when I was awake.
Following that episode, and my essay about it, I was contacted by a faithful reader, Janet, who urged me to get a carbon monoxide detector and install it in my home. It could be, she said, a real life saver.
She further and subsequently challenged me to write an essay about the importance of everyone having a carbon monoxide detector in their home.
Thank you, Janet, for the excellent suggestion.
Y’all should know that actually, we did go out and buy a carbon monoxide detector just a few days after that furnace malfunction. The device cost us around twenty-five dollars and was very easy to install.
The day before we had that furnace breakdown and leak, there was a bill passed into law, here in the province of Ontario. Called the Hawkins-Gignac Act, it made mandatory the installation of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in all homes, be they new construction, or old.
This law came into being thanks to the five year long advocacy and tireless efforts of one family, led by a man named John Gignac. Mr. Gignac had a very personal reason for taking up this cause.
On December 1, 2008, his niece, Laurie Gignac Hawkins, who was a constable with the Ontario Provincial Police, was found barely alive in her central Ontario home. Her husband, Richard, and their two children—Cassandra, 14 and Jordan, 12 had already died. Their deaths came as the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by a blocked vent in the home’s gas fireplace.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can kill. The only way it can be detected is with an approved CO alarm.
Laurie herself passed away eight days later. By all accounts she had been an officer who was a credit to the force and a woman who made a difference not only to the family who loved her, but in her community at large as well.
This tragic loss of life was preventable. The purchase and installation of an inexpensive device could have saved this family from perishing.
This is not, by the way, a Canadian phenomenon. According to the U. S. Center for Disease Control’s website, from 1999 to 2010, there were a total of 5,149 deaths from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States. These are unintentional deaths—and thus, deaths that could have been prevented.
Most of us have smoke detectors in our homes, and some of us think that means that we’re protected. But an ordinary smoke detector will not detect carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide is a “four season” killer, as a lot of us have homes that are fuelled by combustible fuels—not just our furnaces in the cold weather, but our hot water heaters, and our kitchen stoves as well. In truth, it’s not just natural gas that can create CO, but all other fossil fuels as well.
If you don’t already have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, get one. They’re available at Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and even Amazon!
As Janet very rightly pointed out to me, a CO detector can be life saving—and the life it could save might be your own, your spouse’s, you children’s.