AHLA: keeping guests safe from carbon monoxide leaks

By Melissa Boisvert, AHLA

Recently, a Winnipeg hotel experienced a carbon monoxide leak that sent 46 guests and staff to hospital. Fortunately, there were no fatalities, but the outcome could have been much worse.

The leak, which has since been attributed to inadequate ventilation, has led hoteliers across Canada to take a second look at procedures and equipment to help them prevent similar situations. Here are a few things you need to know to keep your guests safe:

What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)?

CO is a by-product of combustion and is produced when fuel-burning appliances don’t get enough air to burn the fuel completely. CO absorbs 200 times faster in the blood stream than normal oxygen. At high levels or during continued exposure, CO can cause suffocation, resulting in loss of consciousness, brain damage, or death.

Areas of Concern

Any indoor workplace or building with fuel burning equipment presents a potential hazard. Staff and guests in confined spaces can be exposed to CO, but this gas can also be present in large buildings, as well as well-ventilated areas. Potential sources of CO include:

•Gas-powered engines

•Fireplaces

•Natural gas space heaters

•Furnaces

•Natural gas ovens

•Boilers

•Natural gas dryers

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

•Headaches and dizziness

•Shortness of breath

•Chest pain

•Poor vision

If Your Alarm Activates

If your CO alarm goes off, get everybody out of the building and into fresh air. Have a plan in place to ensure that all guests and staff have been safely evacuated. Call 911 or your local emergency services. Advise emergency services of anybody that has not been accounted for. Do not go back into the building until it is safe to do so.

For further information, including Building Code regulations and preventative measures that hotels can take to ensure their guests are protected from carbon monoxide, see AHLA's Carbon Monoxide web page.

Melissa Boisvert is Communications Manager at the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association. 

Carbon monoxide facts provided by Western Financial Group.

More information available from the Government of Alberta.

Emergency Response Planning Guide