Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman teams up with IBC to put carbon monoxide alarms in Tillsonburg, Ingersoll, Norwich homes

Published on April 23, 2018

By Chris Abbott, Postmedia Network

Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman and Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) recently donated 150 carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to residents in Tillsonburg, Ingersoll and Norwich and raised awareness of the dangers of CO poisoning.

“Carbon monoxide is often referred to as the silent killer, as you cannot see it, smell it or taste it,” said Hardeman at the Tillsonburg Fire Hall. “The only way we can protect ourselves and our families is to install carbon monoxide alarms in our homes and speak up about the importance of having these alarms to those around us.”

And it's not just a silent killer in the winter, Hardeman noted.

"It doesn't just operate in the winter time, it's also dangerous in the spring and the summer, particularly when you're using supplementary (fuel burning) heating. Of if you put up your barbecue in an enclosed area and there's not enough air. So it's important to keep that message out all the time.

"Or at the marina getting your boat ready for the summer," said odd Jerry, IBC manager, government relations, Ontario.

"The mandate this year is summer safety," said John Gignac, a retired veteran of the Brantford Fire Department and Executive Director of the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education. "For boats, RVs, tents, cottages, you name it."

"People tend to not buy air conditioners in November," said Tillsonburg Deputy Mayor Dave Beres. "But come June, they buy air conditioners because they consider them to be necessary. And it's the same, it's hard to sell hockey skates and sticks in April because the season's over. Then there's a big rush when the next season comes. Nice, but not necessary. These (CO alarms) are necessary. People have to be reminded that it is a necessity to have it."

"We're doing reasonably well at educating people," said Hardeman, "but we haven't reached the end yet. I think we have some work to do and that's why we're thankful for our partners here today."

IBC contributed to the 150 CO alarms to be locally distributed by three fire departments. As part of its campaign to raise awareness about the Ontario requirement for CO alarms in all homes with a fuel burning appliance or attached garage, IBC has so far donated 1,000 alarms to fire departments across Ontario and will donate more over the coming months. Last year about 1,500 alarms were donated.

"We are very, very proud to take part in these events," said Jerry. "We've done several of these across the province last summer, and we will be again this summer. Donating these carbon monoxide detectors to fire departments is very, very important to us, we know they'll go to households and folks who really need them.

"The great work that Ernie has done on this in the past, with John's (Gignac) help, it's good that we've taken the step that it's mandatory now to have these detectors in everyone's home, but not everyone knows that it's the law, so it's very important that we keep spreading the word, as Ernie said. And backing that up by making sure that there's detectors available for people who need them.

“It is especially meaningful being so close to Woodstock today," said Gignac, who founded the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation 10 years ago following the deaths of his niece, Ontario Provincial Police constable Laurie Hawkins, her husband Richard, and their two young children Cassandra and Jordan. The family died when a clogged vent from their gas fireplace forced deadly CO back into their home. They did not have a CO alarm.

"Woodstock is where Laurie, Richard and their children lived life to the fullest before this senseless accident took them away from us," said Gignac. "A carbon monoxide alarm would have alerted them to the poisonous gas in their home and would have saved their lives.

"We decided to move forward by educating Canadians about the dangers of carbon monoxide. I was lucky enough at the beginning to meet Ernie. And he and I - well, he did most of the work..." Gignac smiled, noting that he 'gave Ernie a bit of a shove' to get it started. "He said, 'OK John, I'm going to do it,' and he did an excellent job. He made our family proud and he's always been a great supporter of the Foundation, and I appreciate it very much.

"We can’t change the past and bring them back, but we can change the future by ensuring that no more lives are taken by something so preventable. Please, help me honour Laurie’s legacy by installing a carbon monoxide alarm in your home today. Laurie spent her entire career in public safety and I know that she would want her story remembered to make sure that what happened to her family never happens to another.”

Without the support of Insurance Bureau of Canada and other sponsors, Gignac noted, the CO alarm campaign would not be possible.

"So I really appreciate the Insurance Bureau of Canada's help," said Gignac.

“Despite the serious threat of carbon monoxide poisoning, many Canadians do not have carbon monoxide alarms in their homes," said Kim Donaldson, Vice-President, Ontario, IBC, in a media release. "Events like today’s help create awareness about the steps Ontarians can take to protect themselves and their families.”

Gignac also thanked Deputy Mayor Dave Beres, representing the Town of Tillsonburg, and Fire Chief Jeff Smith, Tillsonburg Fire and Rescue Services.

“On behalf of the citizens of the Town of Tillsonburg, and the Tillsonburg Firefighters, we would like to thank the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the Foundation, and our MPP for this generous donation of carbon monoxide alarms and for recognizing the importance of these alarms in alerting building occupants to the dangers of carbon monoxide," said Smith. "These alarms will be used in our loaner alarm program and our Alarmed for Life program to help ensure that all residents of Tillsonburg have a working carbon monoxide alarm protecting them and their families from the silent killer.

"We have a policy that if we attend a residence with a carbon monoxide alarm sounding, if we determine it is faulty or needs replacement, we carry spares on all of our trucks and we don't leave that place until they have proper smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, and this donation will certainly supplement our program, as well as give us the ability to give these donated alarms to people that otherwise may not be able to financially afford it. This is a great resource for us to keep the residents of Tillsonburg safe."

Ontario law requires that CO alarms be installed in all residential dwellings that contain at least one fuel-burning appliance (e.g., gas water heater or gas furnace), fireplace or an attached garage. For more information, visit www.ibc.ca.

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.