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Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms can save your life in an emergency.

Every home in Ontario must have working smoke alarms installed. Smoke alarms are required on every storey and outside all sleeping areas. Building codes for new homes require the installation of smoke alarms in all bedrooms, this may include alarms with strobes.

All homes in Ontario that have an attached garage, fuel burning appliance or fire place must have a working carbon monoxide alarm installed adjacent to all sleeping areas.

Types of alarms

If your home was built with hardwired smoke or carbon monoxide alarms, you are required by law to replace with hardwired alarms. You can buy hardwired alarms with backup batteries to provide added safety in the event of a power outage.

If your home was not built with hardwired smoke alarms you may use battery powered or plug in alarms.

Ionization best suited for rooms that contain highly combustible materials that can create flaming fires
Quicker to warn about flaming fires. These alarms use a small amount of radioactive material to ionize the air between two electrically charged plates, causing a measurable current to flow between plates. When smoke enters the chamber, it changes the flow of current, which is detected and activates the alarm.

Photoelectric best suited for living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens
Quicker to warn about smoldering fires. These alarms use a light source that is aimed away from a sensor in a sensing chamber. When smoke enters the chamber it reflects the light onto the sensor, which is detected and activates the alarm.

Regardless of the type of technology used, smoke alarms are tested to the same Canadian standard and must meet the same level of performance.

Look for one of these marks on the smoke alarm, which is proof that the device meets the appropriate Canadian standard:   

   

Look for one of these marks on the carbon monoxide alarm, which is proof that the device meets the appropriate Canadian standard:

Combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms have sensing technologies that work together to detect fires and the odorless, colorless, tasteless gas known as CO – the silent killer.

Replacing alarms - all alarms wear out!

Replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarms within the time frame indicated in the manufacturer's instructions - It's the law.

Check the date: Look at the back of the alarm for the date of manufacture. Generally most smoke and carbon monoxide alarms need to be replaced 10 years from the manufacture or date of installation depending on the alarm.

Yes even hardwired alarms need to be replaced.

If your home was built with hardwired smoke or carbon monoxide alarms, you are required by law to replace with hardwired alarms. You can buy hardwired alarms with backup batteries to provide added safety in the event of a power outage.

If your home was not built with hardwired smoke alarms you may use battery powered or plug in alarms.

Replacing batteries

Batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be replaced on an annual basis and whenever a low-battery warning or chirp is heard. 

Worry-Free or Nuisance Free Batteries

These alarms feature a sealed battery that cannot be easily tampered with. The battery never requires to be changed for the lifespan of the alarm, eliminating the hassles of low battery chirps and battery replacement.

Options available for smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms. You may also purchase hardwired alarms with a Worry-Free battery as a back up power supply.     

Maintaining alarms

Only working alarms can save your life! Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms require simple maintenance to keep them in good working order. These tips will help to make sure your alarms perform as intended-when you need them the most:

  • Test your alarms regularly.
    Once a month, test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms by pushing the alarm test button. 
  • Gently vacuum alarms every six months.
    Dust can clog a smoke alarm, so carefully vacuum the inside of a battery powered unit using the soft bristle brush.  If electrically connected, vacuum the outside vents only.

Hush feature for smoke alarms

Use the hush feature

Smoke alarms are available with a pause or hush button that can be used to temporarily silence the alarm. This is a convenient way to deal with nuisance alarms, such as those caused by burning toast or opening smoky ovens, without disabling the alarm. The hush button will silence the alarm for several minutes and then automatically reset itself.

Smoke alarms with this feature discourage the dangerous practice of removing the battery or disconnecting the power source as a method of dealing with frequent nuisance alarms. When purchasing smoke or combination smoke/CO alarms, look for alarms with a hush feature, especially if the alarm will be installed near a kitchen or bathroom.

It should be noted that many alarms with a hush feature will chirp intermittently while in hush mode. The chirping will stop once the alarm resets itself.

If smoke continues to build from a real fire while the alarm is in hush mode, the smoke will override the silence feature and the smoke alarm will resound.

Landlord responsibilities

Landlords are responsible for making sure rental properties have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Landlords should keep a record of installation, maintenance and alarm testing. Landlords are required to provide smoke alarm maintenance instructions to tenants. Landlords must test alarms annually and after any tenancy changes.

If there are fuel burning appliances in your building service rooms are required to have carbon monoxide alarms. Any apartment sharing a floor, ceiling or wall with a service room, or having a fuel burning appliance contained within it, requires a carbon monoxide alarm. Office of the Fire Marshal Technical Guideline - Maintenance of Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Tenant responsibilities

Tenants are required to notify their landlord if an alarm in their unit is disconnected or not operating, or if there is a problem with their alarms. Office of the Fire Marshal Technical Guideline - Maintenance of Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Door-to-door smoke and carbon monoxide alarm program

Firefighters go door-to-door to make sure homes have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. We talk about fire safety information and make sure you have a fire escape plan for your home. Participation in the program is voluntary. If you would like us to visit your home, contact Kawartha Lakes Fire Rescue Service. You can learn more about fire public education programs on the fire safety and prevention section of the website.

Why participate in the program?

  • Peace of mind that your home and family are protected by working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms as required by law.
  • Meet firefighters from your neighbourhood fire station and ask safety questions.
  • Learn how to stop fires from happening and what to do if there’s an emergency.
 Is participation mandatory?

No.

Having working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms is mandatory (it’s the law). However having a firefighter enter your home to complete an in-home assessment is completely voluntary.

 What if I was not home and I missed the firefighters?

Sorry we missed you. Door hangers will be left with installation and maintenance requirements for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. A door hanger will also be left with information about open air burning with respect to By-law 2016-110.

Homeowners and tenants are encouraged conduct their own home safety assessment and if they have questions they may be directed to fire prevention via email or telephone 705-324-5731 Ext. 545.

 What if my home does not have working smoke or carbon monoxide alarms?

It's the law that every home in Ontario must have:

A smoke alarm on every level and outside all sleeping areas in your home

A carbon monoxide alarm next to all sleeping areas in any home with a fuel-burning appliance (i.e. natural gas, oil burning furnace, water heater, etc.) and/or an attached garage

Important:
If you participate in the door-to-door program and firefighters find that your home is not compliant with Ontario laws, you will receive a notice of violation and will be responsible for any costs associated with required upgrades or changes to achieve compliance within 10 days.

Does the 10 year expiry date apply to all smoke and CO alarms even if they are hard wired or battery operated?

Yes.

Both battery-operated alarms and hardwired alarms expire after 10 years as the sensing technology may no longer be reliable in detecting smoke or fire in your home. Reference the manufacture date provided on an alarm.  If you can't find a date on your alarm, it's likely more than 10 years old and expired.

Alarms that are more than 10 years old do not comply with the Ontario Fire Code and are required by law to be replaced.

I have hardwired (electrically-powered) alarms, can I put up a battery-operated alarm in its place?

No.

If your home has hardwired (electrically-powered) alarms, either the homeowner or a certified, licensed electrician must install the alarms. According to the Ontario Fire Code, you cannot replace hardwired alarms with battery-powered alarms.

If you are the homeowner, you may be able to replace hardwired alarms yourself.


Important Safety Tip: Ensure power to the circuit is turned off at the main panel before attempting to install hardwired alarms. 

If you cannot safely replace them yourself, hire a licensed electrician to do the job. Visit the Electrical Safety Authority website for more information and to find a licensed electrical contractor in your area.

Any potential costs to meet Ontario smoke and carbon monoxide alarm laws are the homeowner’s responsibility.

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