The toxicity of phosgene (COCl2) combined with its extensive use as a reactant and building block in the chemical industry make its fast and accurate detection a prerequisite. We have developed a carboxylic derivative of 5,6-pinenepyridine which is able to act as colorimetric and fluorimetric sensor for phosgene in air and solution. For the first time, the formation of a pyrido-[2,1-a]isoindolone was used for this purpose. In solution, the sensing reaction is extremely fast (under 5 s), selective and highly sensitive, with a limit of detection (LOD) of 9.7 nM/0.8 ppb. When fixed on a solid support, the sensor is able to detect the presence of gaseous phosgene down to concentrations of 0.1 ppm, one of the lowest values reported to date.