The New Brunswick government will install carbon monoxide detectors this summer in the estimated 160 schools across the province that have fuel-fired appliances, Education Minister Dominic Cardy announced on Tuesday.
The units and installation are expected to cost a total of $300,000, according to Department of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson Jeremy Trevors.
Cardy described the expense as "fairly minimal."
"The health and safety of our students is our top priority," he said during a news conference in Fredericton.
Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless, tasteless gas that doesn't irritate the eyes, nose or throat.
It's "basically impossible to detect until you're suffering the consequences," said Cardy.
Carbon monoxide monitors are not currently required by the National Building Code of Canada, he noted.
"But we believe that we should go above and beyond the requirements to make sure that we can make our schools as safe as possible for every single student," he said.
Follows leak at Montreal school
Earlier this year, the Quebec government announced plans to make gas detectors mandatory for all schools and school boards after a carbon monoxide leak at an elementary school in Montreal sent more than 40 students and staff to hospital.
Nine students lost consciousness in the school, while others vomited, were nauseous and dizzy from the carbon monoxide poisoning.
A faulty furnace system caused the toxic leak at École des Découvreurs in the borough of LaSalle.
The Quebec Ministry of Education revealed that some students began exhibiting symptoms up to four days before the evacuation, but the cause was not quickly identified.
Firefighters later said the carbon monoxide levels were five times higher than what would normally trigger an evacuation.
New Brunswick fire marshal Michael Lewis commended the government for being proactive.
"We just want to make sure we're above the curve in putting these detectors in place so that kind of event can't happen here," he said.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur quickly and without notice, stressed Lewis.
It can also be "quite dangerous, even at low levels. That's why it's so important to have an alarm detector."
Lewis urged homeowners to also take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.
"Whether in the school or at home, installing a carbon monoxide alarm is the only way to ensure people's safety."
The province issued tenders for the schools initiative on June 3 and the education department will be working with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure throughout the summer to install the monitors.
Each school requires an individual assessment and plan for installation, said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Oliver.
"While these assessments are ongoing, we are eager to get started," he said in a statement.
Installation is expected to be completed before school heating systems are turned on this fall, officials said.
Lewis said the monitors will likely be installed in areas occupied by students and where the fuel-fired appliances are located.
They typically work on a centralized system, where if one alarm goes off, they all go off, he said.