Public school division considering permanent carbon monoxide detectors

By Jessie Weisner
February 7, 2019 - 5:34pm

MEDICINE HAT, AB -- Carbon monoxide isn’t something most people think about, especially because it has no colour or scent.

It can be deadly if inhaled for an extended period of time, but carbon monoxide detectors aren’t mandatory in Alberta schools.

Following an incident in Quebec that led to 50 students and staff being treated for carbon monoxide exposure, their provincial government decided to make the detectors mandatory in all schools.

“We’ll take our lead from the provincial government,” says Mark Davidson, Medicine Hat Public School Division superintendent. “Certainly from the municipality if they give us direction but that doesn’t mean that we won’t examine it ourselves.”

The Alberta government has said they’re looking into something similar. In addition, one Edmonton school division has decided to take steps to install them in all of their schools.

The Medicine Hat Public School Division says they’re researching whether they’re necessary.

“With recent events bringing to the floor that other organizations are examining that,” says Davidson “We’re certainly having a look at it as well.”

The public school board already uses portable detectors to test older heating units.

“We have a number of portable carbon monoxide units that we put adjacent to older less efficient heating units,” says Davidson “Just to make sure were doing everything we can to make sure that they’re operating safely.”

However, Medicine Hats Catholic school division is one step ahead.

“We’re very happy that we’ve had carbon monoxide detectors in all our schools for the last 11 years,” says Greg MacPherson, Medicine Hat Catholic School Division secretary-treasurer. “And that we’ve replaced them when they come to the end of their expiry.”

MacPherson says since the division installed the detectors 11 years ago, there’s been one incident in a school after hours, and that no one was hurt.

He’s thankful the detector was in place for that emergency.

“It was a decision that the board made at the time,” says MacPherson “Just looking at the health and safety and the safe and caring schools for all our students and staff.”

For now, the public school division and many other Alberta schools are waiting for some direction from the government.

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