Protecting Your Family with Smoke & CO Alarms

Ensuring your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are properly installed in your home and remain in good working order should be part of your regular home maintenance routine to make sure they protect your family and home when you need them most.

Fire deaths are preventable

Home fires kill eight Canadians a week according to Fire Prevention Canada. And while home fires represent 40% of all types of fires, they’re responsible for 73% of fire deaths. Most of these deaths could be prevented by taking a few precautions, including properly installing and regularly testing smoke alarms throughout your home.

The number of smoke alarms required within your home varies depending on several factors including when your home was built, the style of your home and where it’s located. Remember, however, that it’s always better to err on the side of caution and install too many than too few.

Smoke alarm dos and don’ts


  • Install in extremely hot or cold areas 
  • Install in dirty or dusty areas
  • Install anywhere there could be a draft – near a window or door, exhaust vents, duct work, etc
  • Install directly over a sink, cooker, stove, oven or inside or below a cupboard
  • Paint over them
  • Remove battery from smoke detector to stop a nuisance alarm. Instead, open a window or turn on a fan. The alarm will turn itself off once the smoke dissipates 


  • Pay attention to the unit’s expiration date. If it doesn’t have one, replace it 
  • Check it once a month by pushing the test button. If it doesn’t have one, replace it
  • Change batteries twice a year (for instance, when you change your clocks in the spring and fall)
  • Every two years remove the cover and clean it with a damp cloth. Carefully vacuum the inside of the alarm. Replace the cover and make sure the alarm works
  • Replace most alarms every 10 years (Note: some models only last five years)
  • Place your smoke detector on the ceiling or high on the wall (no more than 12 inches from the ceiling)
  • For pitched ceilings, install the detector within three feet of the peak but not within the apex of a peak
  • Place your smoke detector 20 feet from a cooking area to minimize false alarms
  • Develop and practice a family escape plan

Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable

Often referred to as the “silent killer”, thanks to its qualities of being odourless, tasteless and colourless, CO is a real threat to every household. Even in the early stages of exposure to this deadly gas, people can become quite ill.

CO is created whenever you burn fuels such as oil, coal, wood, gasoline, propane and natural gas. While CO can be present in your home or cottage at any time of the year, the risk is greater in winter months because homes in Canada are usually heated by furnaces, wood stoves, water heaters or boilers and other appliances that run on fuels. These devices can release CO into your home if they’re not installed correctly or if they malfunction.

Another note of caution comes during heavy snowfalls and cold snaps, as heat vents on the outside of your home can become blocked by snow or ice. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your outdoor vents and clear a path as needed. Otherwise, CO can’t escape and, instead, flows right back into your home.

It’s important to note than a CO alarm and monitor are different items. An alarm will alert the homeowner only when levels are deemed too high, while a monitor is constantly scanning for CO in a home and can act as an early warning system. Although an alarm is more common, a monitoring system is highly recommended – especially in a home with an older furnace and young children.

CO alarm dos and don’ts


  • Install in direct sunlight
  • Install in an area of high humidity
  • Install anywhere there could be a draft – near a window or door, exhaust vents, duct work, etc
  • Install in close proximity to any fuel-burning appliance (about 20 feet away)


  • Install one on every floor
  • Install within earshot of every bedroom
  • Install near an attached garage, especially if you store your vehicle inside
  • Install within five feet of the ground
  • Follow manufacturer’s specifications
  • Check it once a month by pushing the test button
  • Replace about every five years


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