Health & Safety

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Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

17 January 2014

Around 88% of UK homes are fitted with smoke alarms, but do we check them annually to see if they actually work? You do not want to wait until a fire takes places to test whether or not your smoke detector works.

smoke alarms

Does Your Smoke Alarm Function Properly?

Every year approximately 400 people die in the UK as a result of fires. It is important to check to make sure that the batteries are new and working. No smoke alarm was present in 37% of (16,400) dwelling fires in 2010-11. These fires accounted for 112 deaths and 2,500 non-fatal casualties. Among the 63% of dwelling fires where an alarm was present:

  • an alarm operated and raised the alarm in 16,200 dwelling fires (36% of all dwelling fires);
  • an alarm failed to operate in 7,800 cases (17% of all dwelling fires).

Do You Have a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

It is estimated that only 25% of homes have carbon monoxide alarms. Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of poisonous deaths. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, and deadly gas. You cannot see it, taste it, or smell it and it can kill you without any warning. Some of the symptoms people may notice can be much like that of a cold or flu. It is very important that you are aware of them. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, dizziness, irritability, nausea and vomiting. The more serious symptoms one may have can be difficulty breathing, seizures or convulsions, coma, cerebral edema and even death.

Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?

When fuels like coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane and other natural gases are burned incompletely, carbon monoxide is produced. Why is Carbon Monoxide so dangerous? When inhaled, carbon monoxide displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen. Carbon monoxide can be produced by our common home appliances if they are not properly installed or maintained. Gas refrigerators, gas dryers, gas stoves, gas water heaters, fireplaces and charcoal grills are an example of things that produce carbon monoxide. Fumes from cars and gas-powered lawn mowers can also contain carbon monoxide. It can enter into the home through the doors and walls if an engine is left running in an attached garage.

How to Protect Yourself against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

First and foremost, make sure that you keep your boiler, gas fires, water heater, stove and other gas appliance working well. Make sure that they are properly installed and well ventilated. Have your household heaters, chimneys and flue inspected and cleaned every year. The HSE strongly recommends the use of audible carbon monoxide (CO) alarms as a useful back-up precaution but they must not be regarded as a substitute for proper installation and maintenance of gas appliances by a 'Gas Safe Registered' engineer. Before purchasing a CO alarm, always ensure it complies with British Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European approval mark, such as a Kitemark. CO alarms should be installed, checked and serviced in line with the manufacturer's instructions. You can be particularly at risk from CO poisoning when you are asleep, because you may not be aware of early CO symptoms until it is too late. Having an audible CO alarm could wake you and save your life. It takes only a matter of seconds to test to see if your detector is working.

Key facts about Carbon Monoxide:

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer, around 50 people die each year from CO poisoning.
  • CO poisoning can lead to lasting neurological damage.
  • CO is absorbed by the blood 240 times more easily than oxygen and starves the body of oxygen.
  • Children are at greater risk, the smaller the victim the more quickly the body can be overcome by the effects of CO.
  • Almost 50% of people don't know what the warning signs of CO poisoning are.
  • Carbon monoxide can seep into your property via shared flues and chimneys.
  • Only 32% of retired people have their gas appliances checked regularly by a professional.

Both carbon monoxide and smoke detectors can be purchased at General, Electrical, Hardware and DIY Stores. There are also a variety of products sold online that will protect your home and your family. Do not let your family become victim to any of these tragic events. Now is the time to protect your home and make sure that everything is operating the way it should and give peace of mind.