Alarms and fire extinguishers

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Smoke alarms

Legal responsibility

In Ontario, residences are required to have a working smoke alarm on every level and outside every sleeping area. It's the law!

If you live in a rental unit, it is the owner's legal responsibility to make sure that you have working smoke alarms. You are required to test your alarms monthly and immediately report any issues with the alarm to your landlord.

It is against the law to disable a smoke alarm.

Test your smoke alarm

Check your smoke alarm is working by pushing the test button monthly - it's the law!

When testing your alarm, check the expiry date. Alarms should be replaced every 7-10 years. If you aren’t sure or there is no expiry date, it’s time for the alarm to be replaced.

Quick tips

  • Smoke alarms are required to be installed on every level of your home and outside each sleeping area
  • The smoke alarm must be installed on or near the ceiling, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Install a new battery at least once a year
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms should be tested monthly
  • Upgrade to interconnected smoke alarms, so that when one goes off, they all go off together, giving you warning wherever you are in your home
  • Choose hardwired smoke alarms or alarms with a 10-year sealed battery
  • Consider installing extra automatic 'fire suppression' systems at home –like sprinklers
  • Sleep with your bedroom door closed at night

False alarms

  • Use the hush button to deal with nuisance alarms from cooking, dust or steam
  • If your alarm is beeping and you are certain there is no fire, try cleaning the alarm and replacing the battery
  • Move or replace the alarm if it is too close to a kitchen, bathroom, or heat register
  • Replace a defective alarm as soon as possible

Types of smoke alarms

Smoke and Carbon monoxide alarms must be labelled as meeting ULC or CUL standards

Smoke alarms are available as

  • Hardwired
  • With 10-year sealed batteries
  • With disposable 9-volt batteries
  • Dual powered (hardwired with a battery backup)

Hardwired smoke alarms rely on household electricity as an energy source. When power to your home is disrupted for any reason, the smoke alarms are no longer energized. To ensure continuous protection during a power outage, install additional battery-operated smoke alarms within your home.

Dual power smoke alarms are designed to offer an additional energy source from a battery and provides continuous protection when household electricity is not available. The battery in a dual power smoke alarm should be changed once a year.

Detection technology

There are two approved alarm types, ionization and photoelectric. Both types conform to Canadian standards and will detect all types of fires that commonly occur in the home. Installing both types of smoke alarms in your home can enhance fire safety.

Advantages of ionization

  • Fastest type to respond to flaming fires
  • Some models have a hush or temporary silence feature that allows silencing without removing the battery
  • Some models are available with a long-life battery

Advantages of photoelectric (recommended near the kitchen)

  • Fastest type to respond to slow smouldering fires and white or gray smoke
  • Less prone to nuisance alarms from cooking, mist, or steam from showers

Additional information

If you do not have a working smoke alarm or if you want more information about smoke alarms and fire safety, contact Ottawa Fire Services at 613-580-2860 or by email at

Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odourless, colorless gas created by burning fuels (gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, methane, etc.).

In the home, dangerous levels of CO could be produced by

  • heating equipment like gas furnaces, gas water heaters and fireplaces
  • cooking equipment like gas stoves and ovens
  • vehicles running in an attached garage
  • generators running in an attached garage

Residential buildings that have a fuel-fired appliance (gas stove, gas water heater, gas fireplace, etc.), fireplace, and/ or an attached garage must have working CO alarms.

Installing a CO alarm


According to the Ontario Fire Code, Regulation 213/07, section 2.16.2 Installation Requirements, the CO alarm must meet the one of the standards below:

  • CSA-6.19, Residential Carbon Monoxide Alarming Devices
  • UL 2034, Single and Multiple Station Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Check the packaging of the CO alarm to make sure it lists one of the standards and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to how to install your alarm correctly.

Need more information? Visit Ontario’s carbon monoxide safety page.

Detached homes and townhouses

Install CO alarms in

  • any hallway immediately outside of bedrooms
  • basement hallways immediately outside of bedrooms, if applicable

Example 1: In a 2-storey house that has bedrooms in the basement, main floor and second floor, a CO alarm would be required in each hallway (3 CO alarms total).

Example 2: In a 1-storey house with a central kitchen/living space and bedrooms in both ends of the house on the main floor, a CO alarm would be required in each hallway outside of the bedrooms (2 CO alarms total).

Check out this PDF guide that can help identify where to install CO alarms in a house.

Apartment and condo buildings

Install CO alarms in the

  • area/hallway immediately outside of bedrooms, if the apartment/unit contains a fuel-fired appliance
  • area/hallway immediately outside of bedrooms if the apartment/unit shares a wall, floor or ceiling with:
    • A service room containing a fuel-fired appliance, or
    • A parking garage

Example 1: In a 1-bedroom condo with a gas fireplace in the living room, a CO alarm would be installed immediately outside the bedroom.

Example 2: In a ground floor 1-bedroom apartment with an underground parking garage directly beneath it, a CO alarm would be installed immediately outside the bedroom.

Check out this PDF guide that can help identify where to install CO alarms in an apartment or condo building.

Safety tips

  • Remove your vehicle from the garage immediately after starting it
  • Shovel snow away from exhaust pipes, dryer vents, and intakes for fuel burning appliances
  • Use generators or other gas equipment in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings
  • Book an annual inspection and cleaning for
    • Furnaces, chimneys and fireplaces
    • gas dryers
    • stoves
    • any other fuel-burning equipment
  • Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers to heat your home
  • Never use a BBQ or portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space

Fire extinguishers

A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives. A fire can grow and spread quickly so the number one priority for residents is always to get out safely.

Fire extinguishers spray an agent that will cool the burning fuel or remove the oxygen to reduce the fire’s ability to continue to burn. The type of extinguisher used must correspond to the type of fire.

Fire extinguisher tips

  • Use a portable fire extinguisher when:
    • the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket
    • the fire is not growing
    • everyone has exited the building
    • the fire department has been called (or is being called)
    • the room is not filled with smoke.
  • Common extinguishers include
    • Class A - ordinary combustibles (wood, paper)
    • Class B - grease, gasoline and oils
    • Class C - burning electrical wires
  • Select a multi-purpose extinguisher labeled ABC which can be used on all types of home fires
  • Get an extinguisher that is large enough to put out a small fire, and light enough to use
  • Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory (e.g. CSA or ULC)
  • Install a fire extinguisher close to an exit and in a visible, accessible location
  • Follow the manufacturer's directions for taking care of the extinguisher
  • Check the pressure gauge once a month

Using a fire extinguisher

Ottawa Fire Services offers hands on training for school, businesses, and organization. To learn more, visit the OFS fire extinguisher training.

It is safe to use an extinguisher if:

  • The fire is confined to a small area and is not spreading beyond the area immediately around it
  • You can escape through an unblocked route where the fire will not spread
  • You have read, understood the directions, and are confident using the extinguisher

Extinguishing a fire

Stand approximately 2.5 metres (6 to 8 feet) away from the fire and keep your back to a clear exit so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately, stay low, and get outside to safety.

To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:

    1. Pull the pin, hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and give a test squeeze to ensure it functions before approaching the fire
    2. Aim low and point the extinguisher at the base of the fire
    3. Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly
    4. Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side

If the fire does not begin to go out immediately, leave the area at once

How and where to dispose of old/expired fire extinguishers

Learn more about the disposal of household hazardous waste including how and where to dispose of fire extinguishers using the Waste Explorer tool.