Table 3

Summary of focus group findings and participant recommendations

Furnace maintenance
  • Few participants scheduled or performed furnace inspections annually. However, most thought regular maintenance was important.

  • Very few participants arranged for professional furnace/HVAC inspections. Those who did are likely to have furnace or appliance service contracts.

  • Some participants performed personal inspections by changing air filters, examining flame colour, cleaning burner trays and checking for natural gas leaks. These tasks are unlikely to detect CO or emission problems.

  • Participants believed in the economic benefits of regular inspections, including improving efficiency and preventing costly repairs.

  • Many participants avoided professional inspections. They fear they will be expensive and uncover costly repairs. They are unsure how to pick a reputable professional and what a proper inspection entails.

  • Offer free or subsidised furnace inspections through utility companies.

  • Offer coupons or discounts for inspections via trusted sources.

  • Insert inspection reminders in natural gas and utility bills.

  • Publish regional cost estimates for professional furnace inspections.

  • Provide tips on selecting a trustworthy HVAC professional.

  • Explain what to expect during professional inspections.

  • Emphasise cost savings of regular inspections and furnace efficiency.

CO knowledge
  • Participants have heard of CO and know it is an odourless, colourless gas. Many know symptoms of CO poisoning: headache, drowsiness and dizziness.

  • Most participants could name CO sources: furnaces, grills, cars and gas appliances.

  • However, many participants confused CO and natural gas, using the terms interchangeably.

  • If CO were present, most participants knew to leave the house and call the fire department. Some would take less appropriate actions (eg, turning off natural gas, opening windows, checking CO alarm for malfunction).

  • Create a CO warning symbol to raise awareness of CO as a safety issue.

  • Incorporate CO safety into existing fire safety programmes.

  • Educate homeowners about difference between CO and natural gas.

  • Create a clear escape/action plan for homeowners to follow if CO alarms sounds.

CO alarms/prevention
  • Most participants have a CO alarm, but many do not have adequate alarm coverage.

  • Participants were unsure how many CO alarms to install or where to place them. Many place alarms near furnaces or in basements/utility rooms.

  • Few participants placed alarms in or near bedrooms. None acknowledged a connection between alarm location and the ability to hear it.

  • Participants poorly maintain CO alarms. Many do not change batteries regularly.

  • Provide CO alarm coupons in natural gas and utility bills.

  • Offer group/neighbourhood discounts on CO alarm purchases.

  • Provide visual home diagrams for properly installing the right number of CO alarms.

  • Encourage regular CO alarm battery changes in sync with Daylight Saving Time changes.

Trusted sources, incentives
  • Few participants see or hear CO poisoning educational information. The most common source of information is local news stories about poisoning deaths and injuries.

  • Participants trust community professionals—including realtors, insurance agents, teachers, fire-fighters and police—for home safety information.

  • Encourage realtors to educate homebuyers about CO, especially during home inspection.

  • Provide home insurance discounts for proper CO alarm installation.

  • Provide CO safety information in schools that children can share at home.

  • CO, carbon monoxide; HVAC, heating, ventilation and air conditioning.