Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Safety and New Regulations
by Don Epp, SARC Facility Planner
On January 1, 2022, the new Construction Codes Act (CC Act) and Building Code Regulations (BCR) came into effect in Saskatchewan. The CC Act replaces the Unified Building and Accessibility Standards (UBAS) Act and regulations. It’s important to note, however, that many of the changes in the new CC Act do not affect Alternate Family Care Homes (AFCH) directly.
How will new changes affect your organization
One change in the new CC Act is that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are required in all residential buildings, regardless of when they were built. While these changes do not apply to AFCHs it is important to be reminded of the importance of having smoke and CO alarms in all residential buildings. AFCHs have additional requirements, as outlined in the new CC Act, for placement of smoke and CO alarms, testing requirements and annual inspections by Fire Inspectors. Fire sprinkler requirements and additional fire safety measures also ensure that group homes are safe places to live.
The CC Act also reminds us of the importance that smoke and CO alarms offer us in terms of early warning for smoke and carbon monoxide detection. Early warning of potential danger allows residents more time to evacuate the building as needed. The newest AFCHs follow the most current building and fire codes which require homes to be equipped with interconnected combination smoke/CO alarms in every bedroom and hallway as well as one on every level of the house.
Upgrading pre-dated hardware to ensure optimum safety
Although the oldest AFCHs (licensed before 1985) were not required to install interconnected smoke and CO alarms when they were built, AFCH operators are now required to replace older battery-operated smoke alarms, when they become outdated, with tamper-proof combination smoke/CO alarms with 10-year integrated battery. Interconnected alarms are still the best option for smoke and CO alarms. By upgrading this hardware, home operators can rest easy, knowing that the new, hardwired interconnected smoke/CO alarms will maximize smoke and carbon monoxide detection, ensuring that residents have more warning in the event of an emergency. Upgrading of outdated equipment must occur by July 1, 2022 as per the new CC Act, as described in the Building and Technical Standards Advisory bulletin on Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarm regulation.
The risk of outdated hardware
Carbon monoxide poisoning presents a risk to residents if undetected. Carbon monoxide is an odourless, invisible gas that can seep into a home, resulting in impairment, extreme lethargy, and even death. Effective hardware that warns residents of a carbon monoxide leak can prevent severe outcomes.
Carbon Monoxide can come from the following:
- gas furnace
- water heater
- attached garages – do not run your car inside it
- gas fireplaces
Preventative maintenance goes hand-in-hand with the proper hardware
While smoke and carbon monoxide alarms offer good safety warnings, prevention is always a better option at reducing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Here are some tips to help prevent the escape of carbon monoxide into a home:
- Furnaces are recommended to be inspected annually, to check for cracked heat exchangers
- Older furnaces are more susceptible to cracked heat exchangers due to age and wear
- The metal heat exchanger expands and contracts and eventually over time it will crack, allowing flue gas (and carbon monoxide) to enter the building
- Hot water heaters need air to work efficiently
- Give the water heater space and do not store items around the base of the water heater
- Exhaust pipes and intake air vents need to be clear and unobstructed
- After heavy snowfall or extreme cold weather, check all pipes and vents to make sure they are clear and not blocked by snow or ice
- Blocked intake air will cause a back draft and flue gas will enter the building
- Blocked exhaust vents will spill flue gas into the building
Keep your home warm and safe this winter
Carbon monoxide, smoke and fire remain a life safety risk in many homes. Smoke and CO alarms offer protection against these dangers. The more warning residents have the more time they have to leave an unsafe condition. Fortunately, interconnected smoke/CO alarms offer that protection in addition to regular care and maintenance your household appliances require. Life safety is always the number one priority.