It’s silent, tasteless, and odourless — but it can be deadly all the same.
Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide were detected by Calgary fire crews in a southwest high-rise on Tuesday morning, prompting the evacuation of 150 residents, according to a release from the Calgary Fire Department.
The initial detection came after one resident reported breathing problems relating to a pre-existing condition, and it wasn’t until first responders entered the patient’s suite that their portable gas monitor activated, warning firefighters of high levels of CO.
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The initial monitor indicated that levels were at 183 parts per million, causing fire crews to move the patient to the lobby of the building, providing medical assistance as they went.
The building was promptly evacuated, with 150 Calgarians being moved to Calgary Transit buses that had been brought in to provide shelter from the frigid temperatures.
Carbon monoxide levels were later found to be as high as 400 parts per million in some areas of the building, with some unoccupied suites having standalone CO alarms that were going off.
The source of the CO was discovered as a fresh-air intake on the roof that had frozen over, “creating a buildup of poisonous gas,” the release states.
The temporarily displaced occupants were back in their suites by 3 pm Tuesday, though the Calgary Police Service included a warning for Calgarians as the temperature continues to sit at freezing levels:
- Ensure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home. Test them every month.
- Have a home-escape plan with a designated meeting place, and make sure everyone in the family is aware of what to do in an emergency.
- When using space heaters, keep three feet (one metre) clearance from anything that can burn, and turn them off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Ensure your furnace and exhaust vents are free of snow and ice. Carbon monoxide (CO) can build up within your home if the vents are blocked. CO is colourless, odourless, tasteless and non-irritating. If undetected, it can be lethal.
- Never use barbecues, camping heaters, gas or coal stoves, or a generator indoors. Only use them outdoors and away from windows and doors.