The Wood Stove Exchange Program helps people replace old smoky woodstoves. (Stock photo)

As cooler weather sets in, B.C. residents urged to be safe against carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide exposure symptoms include dizziness, nausea and even unconsciousness

The cooler seasons mean more of us are turning on the heat in our homes.

For some, it may mean that they are turning their natural gas appliances on for the first time in months. FortisBC, which provides electricity and natural gas services in many communities throughout the province, urges residents to get their appliances checked out as soon as possible to keep themselves and their families safe.

Jas Baweja is a communications specialist with the utility. He said it’s essential to check appliances, especially now that residents are closing their doors and windows more often, leaving no opportunities to ventilate homes should there be carbon monoxide exposure.

“Carbon monoxide is a gas that’s produced from appliances that aren’t functioning properly because they don’t burn their natural gas completely,” he said.

“Too much exposure to carbon monoxide can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, even unconsciousness.”

He added that the risk of carbon monoxide exposure from well-maintained appliances is low, but appliances that don’t completely burn their gasoline, propane, wood or natural gas fuels can produce carbon monoxide.

Since it’s an invisible and odourless gas, it can be difficult to detect when there’s a leak, which is why preventative servicing is an important first step.

Baweja said another safety tip is to install a carbon monoxide detector.

“This way, if there’s a carbon monoxide in your home, those detectors can alert you so you can get outside and call for help,” he said.

“It’s a great idea to install those near places such as bedrooms, so they can alert you even when you’re sleeping.”

Another tip he shared is never to use cooking equipment designed for outdoor use inside, including barbecues or camp stoves.

Should you experience carbon monoxide exposure symptoms, Baweja said the first thing to do is get outside and call for help.

“Get some fresh air immediately and once you’re outside, please dial 911 and wait for help to arrive,” he said.

More information on carbon monoxide safety can be found here.

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