CO detectors, smoke alarms required in all Sask. residential buildings by July 2022

In January, 47 people needed medical attention after a carbon monoxide (CO) leak in a Saskatoon apartment building.

Kim Scrivener had just moved into the building with her dog and two young children.

“We'd gone out for supper after school, and so we'd happened to not be here, but we came back and there's sirens and police and fire, like everyone's in huge biohazard suits,” she recalled.

At the time, the apartment didn’t have carbon monoxide detectors.

On Friday, the Government of Saskatchewan announced that all residential buildings in the province will be required to have a carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm as of July 1, 2022.

"The health, welfare and safety of residents in their homes is a priority in building safe communities and a strong Saskatchewan," said Government Relations Minister Don McMorris in a news release.

The province says that includes any buildings with regular sleeping quarters, like houses, condos, apartments, townhouses, duplexes, motels and care facilities.

“It could have been so bad,” said Scrivener of the January leak.

“Knowing that more places are going to get the carbon monoxide detectors and this isn't going to happen to somebody else is so important.”

Prior to the announcement, only buildings built since 1988 required fire alarms, and buildings built since 2009 required carbon monoxide detectors.

Saskatoon Fire Chief Morgan Hackl says they’ve been consulting with the province for months on the announcement, and he expects fewer serious carbon monoxide related incidents.

“That early intervention is going to, first off, create a safer community. It's going to create a safer atmosphere for our staff, we’ll respond earlier,” he said.

The province says between 2018 and 2020, an average of 1,200 carbon monoxide incidents were reported annually to SaskEnergy.

“CO alarms are so important,” said Hackl. “It's not an expensive piece of equipment, especially the battery operated ones, and so it's important for us to make sure we have these in our homes.”

Scrivener says she’d like to see the requirement happen before next year.

“It's not that expensive,” she said. “It should be done immediately. It should have been done, especially after our scare. It was all over the news, everyone should know about it. It should be gone now.”

Hackl says there are still buildings that don’t have smoke alarms, and in those cases the Saskatoon Fire Department (SFD) will provide a loaner alarm to the occupants, and then follow up with a fire inspection.

He says they’ll continue to do so with carbon monoxide alarms.

“We find this more in rental properties, where smoke alarms are tampered with,” he said. “We look to educate, not just landlords, but the tenants of course.”

“It's something that is continuous work for SFD, and it's something that I don't know if we'll ever fully remedy, but we just need to continue with that diligence of educating the public.”