Stay warm and safe this Christmas
Published by Penny Allison for Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing in Housing and also in Health
gas cookers can be a source of CO
It’s the time of year when families gather for the holiday season and spend time indoors keeping warm.
It’s also the time of year when people may be at greatest risk from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, warns the Kirklees Carbon Monoxide Awareness Group (KCOAG).
The group gives the following advice to anyone with gas, oil or solid-fuel appliances:
Firstly, make sure you get your gas, oil or solid fuel appliances serviced regularly by qualified contractors. Gas boilers are the biggest culprit and should be checked and maintained every year by a Gas Safe-registered engineer.
If you’re a Council tenant, this will be done automatically – but it’s very important that you let the engineers in to do the work.
If you’re a private tenant, your landlord has a legal duty to get all gas appliances safety checked. If this hasn’t been done in 12 months, contact your landlord or call the Health & Safety Executive’s Gas Safety section if he/she refuses – 0800 300 363.
If you’re a home-owner or leaseholder, you need to be aware that your appliances can affect not just your home but your neighbours too. Help keep everyone safe by arranging for a Gas Safe-registered engineer to service your appliances. You’ll find a list of registered gas installers in the Yellow Pages or online – or you can call 0800 408 5500 to find your nearest. The cost of a safety check starts at around £40, depending on your appliances and the supplier.
Secondly, even if you have your appliances checked and serviced, it’s important to keep your home well ventilated – never be tempted to block up air vents and even in the winter, open the windows regularly.
Thirdly – for peace of mind but not instead of a service - buy a carbon monoxide detector and alarm, available from most supermarkets and DIY stores. These cost around £20 but they last for several years.
In order to be effective, they must meet safety standards. They should be marked to EN 50291 and also have the British Standards' Kitemark or another European approval organisation's mark on it. Fit an alarm in each room with a gas appliance. Always follow the alarm manufacturer’s instructions on siting, testing and replacing the alarm.
Finally, if you think carbon monoxide is in your home, turn off appliances and seek medical attention immediately. Ring the Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999 to turn off the gas.
Stacey Rodgers lost her son Dominic to CO poisoning from a neighbour’s faulty boiler nearly ten years ago. She said: “I don’t want anyone else to go through what our family did when we lost Dominic.
“I know that there are so many expenses at this time of year but people need to think about what’s really important.
A gas service and a CO alarm will cost around £60, but that’s a small price to pay to protect your family and your neighbours.”
Additional information about CO
Gas stoves, fires, heating boilers, gas-powered water heaters, paraffin heaters, and solid fuel-powered water heaters are all potential sources of carbon monoxide.
It becomes a problem when the appliances don’t work properly or aren’t well ventilated. And although older terraced houses are more likely to be at risk because the flues and chimneys may not be in good condition, the problem can also affect newer homes.
Signs of carbon monoxide leakage include soot staining or condensation and burning with yellow flames.
Who’s at risk?
Children, pregnant women, babies, and people with a heart condition are those at most risk – but CO poisoning can affect anyone.
Symptoms can include:
- Headache / vision changes
- Drowsiness / tiredness
- Flu-like symptoms / muscle aches
- Shortness of breath / difficulty breathing
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness / fainting
- Emotional changes / confusion / poor judgment
- Nausea, vomiting / diarrhoea
- Chest pain
- Bluish discoloration of the skin and nails
If you or anyone in your family is experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor straight away.
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