Carbon monoxide awareness effort gets $10K boost in honour of area family

·3 min read

Eight years ago, carbon monoxide alarms were not mandatory inside homes.

But that all changed in 2014, after a Woodstock police officer and her family were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, prompting Ontario lawmakers to make the life-saving device a requirement.

And now, a foundation whose efforts led to this change is being recognized with a donation of up to $10,000 from the 100 Women Who Care Oxford County.

“A donation like this is amazing, especially one that is from an organization such as the 100 Women in Oxford, because Oxford really is ground zero for why our foundation was born,” said Conrad Galambos, a spokesperson for Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education.

The Woodstock-based foundation, which educates people in Ontario and across the country about the dangers of carbon monoxide, said it would use the money to buy CO alarms for families and households in Oxford County who may not be able to afford one.

“CO (carbon monoxide) is called the silent killer for a reason,” said Galambos. “You can't see it, you can't smell it, and you can't taste it. The only possible way of knowing that it's in your home is to have a working CO alarm.”

He said for an alarm to be functional, it must have working batteries and be approved by the Canadian Standards Association.

The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation was started by John Gignac in 2008, following the deaths of his niece Laurie Hawkins, an OPP officer, her husband Richard and their children, Cassandra and Jordan, as a result of a buildup of carbon monoxide in their house due to a blocked chimney vent.

Gignac’s work led to province's Hawkins-Gignac Act in 2013, which requires homes to have CO alarms.

100 Women Who Care Oxford County meets four times a year to select a charity that will receive its pooled donations. Each of its 100 members donates $10 toward an organization making a difference in the region.

As of now, the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation has received more than $4,100 from the donation, with the remainder set to roll in as 100 Women collects donations from its members.

On top of safety efforts by the foundation, the Woodstock fire department is also shining a light on the importance of CO alarms.

"We recommend, obviously, not only installing carbon monoxide alarms but also maintaining them and ensuring that (people) replace them because they age and have to be replaced every 10 years," Lukasz Kasprzyk, a fire prevention officer, said.

While the department has not seen any deaths from carbon monoxide since the Hawkins family in 2008, they often receive calls about CO emergencies, though Kasprzyk notes most of them are false alarms.

As of 2021, there have been three incidents involving carbon monoxide and 41 false alarms. Last year, there were 11 emergencies and 83 reported incidents involving a false alarm.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Facts

To learn more visit the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education at

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press

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