Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms save lives. Understanding where alarms should be installed and knowing the signs of carbon monoxide exposure are the best ways to be prepared.

Get carbon monoxide tips

On this page:

  1. Fire Prevention Week - learn the sounds of fire safety
  2. Required alarms
  3. What to do if the carbon monoxide alarm sounds
  4. Signs of carbon monoxide exposure
  5. Check and replace alarms
  6. Keep detectors clean
  7. False alarms
  8. Gas appliance inspections

Fire Prevention Week - learn the sounds of fire safety

Fire Prevention Week is October 3 to 9, 2021. This year’s theme works to educate everyone about simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe.

Learn the sounds of fire safety by learning to recognize what your alarms are telling you. Smoke and CO alarms have different sounds that can help to keep you and your family safe. Learn the sounds of your alarms, practice what to do whenever someone in your home hears them, and make sure they are always in working order.

Hear a beep, get on your feet

  • smoke alarms
    • a continuous set of three loud beeps means smoke or fire
    • get out, call 9-1-1, and stay out
  • CO alarms
    • a continuous set of four loud beeps means carbon monoxide is present in your home
    • get out, call 9-1-1 and stay out

Hear a chirp, make a change

  • smoke and CO alarms
    • a single “chirp” every 30 or 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be changed
    • if chirping continues after battery replacement, your alarm may be at the end of its life and should be replaced

Learn the sounds of fire safety

Watch the video below to learn the sounds of fire safety.

More resources


Required alarms

You need a smoke alarm on each storey of your home, and outside all sleeping areas.

If you have a fuel-burning appliance, fireplace or attached garage, you must install a carbon monoxide alarm outside all sleeping areas in your home.

We recommend installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in every room of the house, as well as outside bedrooms.

Find the right detector for your home

Talk to staff at your local hardware store to get the right detectors for your home. Smoke alarms are available for the deaf and hard of hearing through Canadian Hearing Society.

Direct Detect

Consider subscribing to Direct Detect, Kitchener Fire's direct detection and monitoring program, to ensure you have the protection you need.


What to do if the carbon monoxide alarm sounds

If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds, and you or other occupants feel any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, get everyone out of the home immediately. Then call 911 or your local emergency services number from outside the building.

If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds and no one feels any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, check to see if the battery or alarm needs to be replaced before calling 911.

Do not open windows

Do not ventilate the area by opening windows before fire crews arrive to test for carbon monoxide.

It will be easier for fire crews to locate the source of the carbon monoxide if the windows are closed.


Signs of carbon monoxide exposure

Exposure to carbon monoxide causes flu-like symptoms like:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • dizziness

Exposure can also lead to confusion, drowsiness, loss of consciousness and death.


Check and replace alarms

Check your alarms

Check your alarms every month to make sure they are working properly. We recommend using the daylight savings time changeovers as a reminder to change your batteries twice a year.

Replace alarms

Replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarms every 10 years from the manufacturers date listed on the back of the detector. Even if the light and 'beep' work, the sensor will most likely stop working after this time and fail to warn you of an emergency.


Keep detectors clean

To prevent false alarms, vacuum or dust your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to keep them working properly.


False alarms

If you have smoke alarms near kitchens or outside bathrooms, cooking and steam can trigger false alarms.


Gas appliance inspections

If your property has gas appliances, it is critical to have these appliances inspected every year. This will ensure that your appliances meet safety requirements that reduce the risk of carbon monoxide incidents. Get a full list of registered contractors from CO safety.