Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman and John Gignac of the Hawkins-Gignac foundation kicked off the first ever carbon monoxide awareness week Friday by donating CO detectors to fire departments around Oxford County.
Hardeman said the whole process of getting the Hawkins-Gignac Act passed has been a lot more personal to the people of Oxford because of what happened to the Hawkins family.
He added one of the things he learned by going through the process of getting his private member’s bill passed was how often carbon monoxide deaths happened in other communities.
“If we had every community that had a tragedy like that here, then we would have a room full of people because it happens a lot,” Hardeman said. “That’s why I think the awareness week is so important, as the fact that now that we are finished with the bill … (it) will not be coming forward again to build the awareness. So we need to make sure that, through the fire departments, … we make people aware of the importance of it.”
Hardeman went on to explain the dangers of carbon monoxide, describing it as the silent killer.
“If you have carbon monoxide, you will not know it until it’s too late,” he said. “You will have flu-like symptoms, and the first thing someone wants to do when that happens is lay down and go to sleep. And the problem with that is, if it’s carbon monoxide, you won’t wake up.”
Gignac said that around 50% to 60% of homes still don’t have CO detectors or need them to be replaced.
“People need to be educated on the fact of how to look after them and what to do when they’ve reached their life expectancy,” Gignac explained. “CO detectors are only good for around seven to 10 years, and then you have to get rid of them.”
He went on to add that, if he could get everyone to get a CO detector immediately, he would.
“The object is to make sure that everyone is aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and what to do to protect their family,” he said. “This law is the first step.”
Woodstock Deputy fire Chief Brian Arnold said the way fire departments combat carbon monoxide poisoning is through a combination of awareness, making sure that CO detectors are in the homes and making sure people get educated on the danger of carbon monoxide.
“If you have a carbon monoxide alarm, install it where the manufacturer suggests,” Arnold said. “We want to make sure that if you have a fuel-burning appliance or you have an attached garage, you make sure you have a CO detector on every level and adjacent to each sleeping area.”