CO Detectors Now Mandatory

Photo of the Hawkins family from www.endthesilence.ca

Nearly six years after their deaths, changes to the Ontario Fire Code made by a law named for OPP Constable Laurie Hawkins and her husband and children take effect today.

Bill 77, also known as the Hawkins-Gignac Act, makes it mandatory for all Ontario homes that have fuel burning appliances or attached garages or carports to also have a carbon monoxide detector. Hawkins, the Community Relations Officer for Oxford OPP, died in December of 2008 of carbon monoxide poisoning days after her husband Richard, and their children Cassie and Jordan were found dead in their Woodstock home.

The deadly gas filled their home after a vent from their gas fireplace became clogged.

Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman, who first pushed for mandatory CO detectors when he tabled the private members bill, says he it’s a fitting legacy for Hawkins.

“She spent her life in the police services working on community safety,” says Hardeman. “And obviously, to have perished the way she did, it’s a fitting legacy that we do the best we can to build public awareness to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

The bill became law last November, after a long and sometimes frustrating road. The first two times the Hawkins-Gignac Act passed second reading, it ended up stalled at committee, while the third time the bill went to committee hearings where some changes were suggested. The legislation was stalled again when the legislature was prorogued by then-Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education offers these CO safety tips:

  • Don’t wait for the enforcement date of Ontario’s new CO law. Ensure your family is protected, by installing at least one CSA-6.19.01 approved carbon monoxide alarm 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.