Fire and Carbon Monoxide safety

Tuesday Oct 11th, 2016


I often get asked questions about smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Are they necessary? How many does one need to have in a home? When does one need to replace them?

As of March 1, 2006, every home in Ontario is required to have working smoke alarms on every storey, or level, including basements.  According to information from the Ontario Fire Marshal, and as drafted in the Ontario Fire Code, “a smoke alarm is required to be installed between each sleeping area and the remainder of the dwelling unit. This means that if you have 3-4 bedrooms on any level, you'd need to have a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector just outside the bedrooms, in the hallway.  In addition, at least one smoke alarm is required to be installed on each storey that does not contain a sleeping area.

Non-compliance with the Ontario Fire Code smoke alarm requirements can result in a ticket for $235 or a fine of up to $50,000 for homeowners, tenants and individual landlords, and up to $100,000 for corporations.

Along with smoke detectors, we also have to consider carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless, silent killer. There are guidelines as to how many CO detectors are required in a residential unit and where they are to be located.

As per the Ontario Building Code, every residential dwelling that has a fuel burning appliance and an attached/built-in garage must be equipped with working CO alarms. Fuel burning appliances would include gas stoves, fireplaces (both gas and wood burning) as well as furnaces. Garages, if attached to the house, would necessitate a CO alarm because a running vehicle, in the garage, emits CO fumes. This is why it's not normally advisable to keep your car running in the garage longer than necessary. If there is a room above the garage, it is advisable to install a CO alarm in that room too. Make sure that garages that are built in, or attached to the house in any way, do not have gaps, or openings in the wall/ceiling, that connect with the house as this may allow CO fumes to enter the house.

Now, where does one have to locate the CO alarms? According to the guidelines from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, wherever there's a fuel burning appliance, as described above, there should be a CO alarm adjacent to each sleeping area in the house.

It is also advisable to install a CO alarm near areas where there is a fuel burning appliance like the furnace and fireplace. For detailed information on smoke and CO, please visit  which is the website of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs. Click on the Public Safety tab at the top right corner. I have done some research and put this information together because I believe that both these devices (smoke and CO alarms, or combination units) are very important to personal, and home, safety. Your home is your biggest investment - protect it and, of course... yourself!

There are also installation and conformance standards.

The CO unit must be permanently connected to an electrical circuit and should have no disconnect switch. The alarm should also be audible even with the bedroom doors closed.

One last thing... remember that everything has a life. Most of these alarms will last around 7 years. Some may last for 10 years, but make sure of this and mark the approximate expiry date on the alarm if it is not already marked. That way, you'll be sure of the validity, if you're still living in the same house.

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