Carbon Monoxide Alarm Training Materials
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Training Materials (PDF version available on request at AskOFM)
Welcome to this presentation on Carbon Monoxide Alarms (CO alarms).
CO alarm requirements are new to the Ontario Fire Code, as introduced by Regulation 194/14 under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997.
The purpose of this presentation is to share valuable information about carbon monoxide and carbon monoxide alarms.
- notes some carbon monoxide properties and hazards
- describes amendments to the FPPA accomplished through the Hawkins-Gignac Act and
- provides details on the new CO alarm regulation.
What is carbon monoxide?
Its chemical symbol is CO, which denotes a molecule made of carbon and oxygen.
- CO is an odourless, tasteless, colourless gas. Therein lies a key problem - it has no warning properties.
- It is slightly less dense than air and mixes well with air.
- A person can be exposed to the gas and not realize its presence.
- Thus, it is known as the silent killer. This has made it the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America.
CO is primarily produced by the incomplete combustion of fuels such as:
- Heating oil
- Other bio-fuels
When these fuels are used in appliances that are properly installed, maintained and vented, unsafe levels of CO will not accumulate.
There are many sources of unsafe concentrations of CO, such as:
- Vehicles left running in an attached garage
- The unsafe use of portable electrical generator in close proximity to a residence
- Improperly maintained chimneys and vent pipes
- Improper indoor use of portable fuel-burning heaters , barbecues, and
- Leaks from fuel-burning appliances like furnaces, water heaters, gas stoves, fireplaces, and wood stoves.
The key health impact of CO poisoning is that it competes with oxygen for binding sites on hemoglobin in blood. This can potentially starve the body of needed oxygen.
Symptoms of CO poisoning include:
- Visual problems
- Muscle weakness and cramps
- The symptoms are similar to the flu without the elevated temperature.
- In serious cases, CO poisoning can lead to unconsciousness, coma or death.
The following are some methods by which CO poisoning can be prevented:
- Have properly maintained and operating fuel-burning appliances with proper venting.
- Have chimneys, flues and flue pipes checked every year and cleaned when needed to keep them free from obstructions and combustible deposits.
- Be aware of hazardous activities that can generate CO
- Don’t idle vehicles in the garage.
- Be cautious in the use and placement of electric generators.
- Don’t use a barbecue indoors.
- Finally, CO alarms are important to detect the presence of carbon monoxide. Install and regularly maintain these devices as they are a key tool for life safety and will alert occupants of the presence of unsafe levels of CO.
- If you are exposed to CO and have symptoms of CO poisoning, go outside to get fresh air, and call 911.
- On December 12, 2013, the Hawkins-Gignac Act [Carbon Monoxide Safety], 2013, received Royal Assent.
- It designates the week beginning November 1 for each year as “Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week”.
- It amended the FPPA to allow for
- the regulation of CO alarms through amendments to the OFC and
- the inspection and enforcement of CO alarm requirements.
- OFC CO regulation to supersede all existing CO related municipal by-laws.
- A technical advisory committee (TAC) helped guide the implementation of the Hawkins-Gignac Act with recommendations that shaped the regulation.
- Ontario Regulation 194/14 was filed on October 14, 2014 with an in-force date of October 15, 2014 and has a phased compliance schedule.
- It applies to existing residential occupancies that contain at least one fuel-burning appliance (e.g. gas water heater or gas furnace), fireplace or an attached garage.
- It requires owners/landlords to install the alarms and perform the needed maintenance and replacement of CO alarms.
- Landlords have additional testing obligations
- Subsequent revisions, which took effect on January 1, 2015, (per O. Reg. 256/14) were made to installation location requirements to include requirements for:
- buildings with fuel-fired appliances associated with building services not located in service rooms and
- sleeping rooms not within a dwelling unit (i.e. typically found in boarding, lodging and rooming houses)
The scope of residential occupancies to which O. Reg. 194/14 applies to, goes beyond your typical home. The following are examples of residential buildings that are covered by the regulation:
- Houses (detached, semi-detached, attached)
- Rental apartments/condominiums
- Residential group homes (adults, youth, children)
- Hostels/domiciliary hostels
- Social housing
- Student residences/dormitories
- Retirement homes (no care/care & treatment)
- Camps for housing workers
Further examples include:
- Boarding, lodging, rooming and halfway houses
- Clubs (residential)
- Open and semi-secure detention for youth
- Recreational camps
- Residential schools
- Shelters (homeless/women)
How about non-residential occupancies?
The OBC and the OFC currently require CO alarms in residential occupancies only. Other regulations, such as those under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, may require CO concentrations to not exceed specified levels so as to ensure a safe work place. In these circumstances, it is advisable to consult with the Ministry of Labour on specific requirements.
Where are CO alarms required to be located in houses (e.g. detached houses, semi-detached or attached townhouses)?
- For an existing house that has a fuel-burning appliance or fireplace, a CO alarm must be installed adjacent to the sleeping areas to increase the likelihood that the sleeping occupants will hear the alarm if it goes off. [220.127.116.11.(1)*]
- Similarly, for an existing house that has an attached garage, a CO alarm must be installed adjacent to the sleeping areas. [18.104.22.168.(3)]
In general, the phrase “adjacent to sleeping area” means the hallway serving or area outside the sleeping area. For instance, a CO alarm can be installed in the hallway outside multiple bedrooms in a house or apartment.
However, there may be situations where “adjacent to each sleeping area” may be better interpreted as being the area around the bed, within the bedroom or sleeping area itself. An example of where this may be applicable would be in a situation where one of the home’s bedrooms contains a fuel-burning appliance (i.e. fireplace).
* References are to Division B of the Fire Code unless otherwise noted.
Where are CO alarms required in multi-unit buildings?
- In multi-unit dwellings, if there is a fuel-burning appliance in the residential suite, a CO alarm must be installed adjacent to the sleeping areas. [22.214.171.124.(1)]
- If the multi-unit building has a service room or open area* that contains a fuel-burning appliance associated with building services, a CO alarm must be installed in the service room/open area* and in all residential suites immediately above, below or beside the service room/open area*, adjacent to the sleeping areas. [126.96.36.199.(2)]
- ‘Immediately above, below or beside’ means the suite shares a common wall or floor/ceiling assembly with the service room/open area.
Similarly, if there is a garage in the building, CO alarms must be installed in all residential suites immediately above, below or beside the garage, adjacent to the sleeping areas.[188.8.131.52.(3)]
*Note: OBC 184.108.40.206.(2) does not require fuel-burning appliances to be located in a service room in smaller buildings (i.e. buildings <400 m2 and a height of not more than 2 storeys) and permits them to be located in open areas.
Where are CO alarms required in buildings with sleeping rooms that are not within a dwelling unit (i.e. typically applicable to boarding, lodging and rooming houses)?
- CO alarms are required to be installed adjacent to all sleeping rooms not within a dwelling unit if the building contains a fuel-burning appliance associated with building services or an attached garage. This requirement is applicable regardless of where the sleeping rooms are located in relation to the appliance and garage. [Div. B, 220.127.116.11.(2)(c), (3)(b)]
The following is a summary of the installation requirements for CO alarms:
- The alarm may be hardwired, battery operated or a plug-in unit. [18.104.22.168.(4)]
- The alarm must conform to either CSA 6.19-01 or UL 2034-2008. [22.214.171.124.(5)]
- The alarm must be mechanically fixed, attached, plugged-in or placed at the manufacturer’s recommended height. If the manufacturer has not recommended a height, it should be installed on or near the ceiling. [126.96.36.199.(6)]
[A combination smoke alarm/CO alarm must be installed on or near the ceiling.]
- Alarm installed adjacent to a sleeping area must be audible throughout the sleeping area with the doors closed. [188.8.131.52.(7)]
- The CO alarms and their power supplies must be maintained in operating condition by the owner. [184.108.40.206. and Div. A, 220.127.116.11.]
- In the case of a rental dwelling unit, the landlord is considered to be the owner. [18.104.22.168.]
- Disabling of the alarm is prohibited by everyone – landlords, tenants, homeowners. [22.214.171.124.]
- In rental units, CO alarm testing is to be performed by the landlord based on the following timeframes:
- after every change in tenancy,
- after the battery is replaced, and
- after changes are made to CO alarm electric circuit. [126.96.36.199.(2), (3), and (4)]
- Tenants and homeowners are not required to do testing.
- The carbon monoxide alarm is tested by activating the alarm’s test feature (i.e. push the button). [188.8.131.52.(5)]
- The landlord is also required to keep the test records. [184.108.40.206.]
- The timeframe for replacing CO alarms is based on the manufacturer’s instructions. [220.127.116.11.(3)]
- [Please note that the CO alarm standards require alarms to have a design operating life of at least 3 years, however many products are available with 7 – 10 year life expectancies.]
- For suites constructed on or after Aug. 6, 2001,
- the replacement alarm has to maintain the same level of CO protection (i.e. interconnection, hard-wiring) that was required by the OBC version that was in place when the suite was constructed. [18.104.22.168.(4)(a)]
[For instance, if a CO alarm was hard-wired, then it must be replaced with a hard-wired unit, not a plug-in unit.]
- The CO alarm must also meet CSA 6.19-01 or UL 2034-2008 [22.214.171.124.(4)(b)]
- For suites constructed before Aug. 6, 2001, the replacement alarm must meet the installation requirements specified in Article 126.96.36.199. [188.8.131.52.(5)]
There are additional obligations for landlord and tenants under O. Reg. 194/14, which include:
- The landlord is required to provide CO alarm maintenance instructions to the tenant [184.108.40.206]
- The tenant must notify the landlord if the CO alarm is disconnected, inoperative or impaired [220.127.116.11]
The following is the implementation schedule for the installation and replacement of CO alarms:
- April 15, 2015, for buildings with no more than 6 residential suites. [18.104.22.168.(2)(a), 22.214.171.124.(2)(a)]
- October 15, 2015, for buildings with more than six residential suites. [126.96.36.199.(2)(b), 188.8.131.52.(2)(b)]
The maintenance and testing requirements for existing CO alarms took effect on October 15, 2014. Existing CO alarms are those that were previously installed to comply with the OBC, a municipal by-law or due to an owner being proactive. Note that the alarm testing requirements are applicable to landlords only and not required to be performed by homeowners or tenants.
The proactive installation and replacement of additional CO alarms, such as on every level of the home, is encouraged to enhance personal safety.
This Compliance Schedule is available on the Carbon Monoxide Alarm Portal within the OFMEM website. The 3 key dates on the Compliance Schedule are:
- October 15, 2014 for maintenance and testing of existing carbon monoxide alarms
- April 15, 2015, for replacement or installation of carbon monoxide alarms for residential occupancies of not more than 6 units, and
- October 15, 2015 for the replacement or installation of carbon monoxide alarms for residential occupancies of with more than 6 units.
What inspection and enforcement powers are attached to this regulation?
- The definition of “fire safety” in Section 18 of the FPPA was expanded by the Hawkins-Gignac Act to include safety considerations relating to CO.
18. For the purposes of this Part, fire safety includes the following:
1. Safety from the risk that a fire, if started, would seriously endanger the health and safety of any person or the quality of the natural environment for any use that can be made of it.
2. Safety from the risk that the presence of unsafe levels of carbon monoxide on premises would seriously endanger the health and safety of any person. 2013, c. 14, s. 4.
- Expanding this definition broadens the inspectors powers for entry and inspection, issuing Inspection Orders, and charging under the Provincial Offences Act (POA) for non-compliance with CO alarm requirements under the OFC.
- The Ministry has developed new wording for ticketable offences under Part I of the POA for CO alarm violations, similar to current provisions for smoke alarms.
- Set fines have been established at $195 or $295 for CO alarm violations. Add court costs of $5 and victim fine surcharge of $65 and the total is actually $260 or $360
- The tickets do not preclude prosecution for more serious offences (i.e. repeat offenders) under Part III Information of the POA.
- For individuals, the maximum fine is $50,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year.
- For corporations the maximum fine is $100,000.
If you would like to obtain further information on the new CO alarm regulation, we have recently added a Carbon Monoxide Alarm Portal to our website.
It can be accessed directly through the following link: CO Alarms Overview
Alternatively it can be access through our main website by clicking on the “Carbon Monoxide Alarms” link located along the left margin.
Are there any questions?