Carbon Monoxide False Alarm
March 27, 2011 5:15 PM   Subscribe

My carbon monoxide alarm went off this morning, so I called 911, and the fire department came to test the air. It was a false alarm - just an old detector acting up. Will I be charged? I live in Toronto, ON.

They didn't say anything about it, but I just remembered that there are fees for calling in non-existent fires and unnecessary ambulances, so I'm slightly worried.
posted by mellifluous to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
I don't know. However, if you didn't do this, unless there's some potential course of carbon monoxide in your home that's likely to be creating a problem, you should double check before calling 911. I unplug my monitor and plug it back in immediately when it goes off. If it doesn't go off again, it was an error. I open the windows just in case and go back to sleep.

In my case, there are two common sense clues that this is a false alarm: 1. when mine goes off it often says 999 as the level -- since it's unlikely to have gone from non-dangerous levels to 999 without time to go off in between, it's pretty easy to figure that it's an error. 2. I live in a condo with no gas appliances and far from the garage. There are woodburning fireplaces, but they start several floors above me, so it's unlikely that CO would reach my condo without setting off dozens of other condo alarms (and thus being dealt with) first.

My detector is less than a year old. It doesn't take an old detector to false alarm.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:23 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not an authority on your local ordinances and whatnot, but I can't imagine that you would. It's not like an alarm went off and the alert was handed off to the fire department- you thought you might have been in danger, so you contacted them yourself.

I was in the same situation a few months ago, and even though there was no change of a fine, I felt kind of silly that they came all the way out for that. They told me not to even question if what I did was alright, and not to hesitate to call if it happened again.

I think you'll be okay.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:23 PM on March 27, 2011

That happened to us and we were not charged. They were very nice about it - said we did the right thing by calling. Toronto also.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:28 PM on March 27, 2011

Best answer: This says that neither calls not originated by the alarm system nor calls based on CO detectors are considered false alarms.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:33 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think typically you get one free false alarm, and are charged after that. Might be more.
posted by Slinga at 5:36 PM on March 27, 2011

Response by poster: Slinga: that used to be the case, but the law was amended - there are no more free false alarms.

IIOHAP: Thanks, that's heartening. I missed that information on the TFD website.
posted by mellifluous at 5:38 PM on March 27, 2011

If you think about it, there is no way for you personally to be able to tell if the CO alarm is lying to you or not (except by dying of CO poisoning or not, I guess), so the only way to determine if it is a false alarm is to have the fire department come out and check with your fancy equipment.

Compare this to a fire alarm, where it is very unlikely that the alarm would go off and you wouldn't be able to tell if the place was on fire or not.
posted by that girl at 5:46 PM on March 27, 2011

Best answer: From a firefighter -- you absolutely did the right thing in calling. Do not feel bad, especially because it was due to a detector malfunction. It would be really strange and unethical if they called you for one false alarm when you legitimately thought there was a harmful atmosphere in your home based on the detector. IIOHAP's link seems to indicate that too: "An alarm will not be considered false if it is determined that the alarm was caused by ... CO detector activation".

They just want to prevent apartment complexes from causing multiple false alarms without fixing their alarm system. It causes complacency in the residents and responding firefighters, and it wastes a lot of man-hours.

In the future, I would recommend owning two unlinked detectors, hopefully one of which has a number displaying how many PPM are in the air.
posted by skyl1n3 at 5:47 PM on March 27, 2011 [11 favorites]

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