At this time of the year our attention turns to the prospect of long dark nights. And when the clocks fall back an hour, many of us think about turning up the central heating and start to enjoy the prospect of sitting beside a glowing fire while watching our favourite programme on television.
Everyone’s focus tends to be on the children starting or returning to school or students moving into digs – but how many spare a thought for the last time fuel-burning appliances, chimneys and flues were serviced and cleaned?
RoSPA continues to raise awareness of home safety throughout the year to the people of Northern Ireland, but in the autumn we begin to remind you once again about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
What we don’t want is to distress or scare you about the dangers that lurk in and around your home – we want to keep reminding you to take preventative measures to keep yourselves and your families safe.
This year we are bringing forward our plans to raise awareness of the “silent killer” with help from the Gis A Hug Foundation, who by now have almost become a household name. The foundation was established in memory of Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson who died last year as a result of CO poisoning. With the help of the foundation we aim to target those who are deemed most at risk from the silent killer, in particular students and older people.
In Northern Ireland last year there were five deaths in a four month period as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, with possible casualties from other CO-related incidents that may have gone unreported. What we do know is that since the terrible tragedies from last year, lives most certainly have been saved because of the tireless campaigning by the Gis A hug Foundation.
The Foundation has donated 300 CO alarms to RoSPA and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT) which is running 10 carbon monoxide awareness workshops enabling around 300 people to take home a free detector. The CO warning devices were delivered to RoSPA and the SHSCT for distribution among the most vulnerable in society.
Neil’s mum, Catherine McFerran, said that the pain of losing her son is always there but that something positive has come out of it the tragedy. She explained how the Gis A Hug Foundation raises money to purchase and supply free alarms to students, older people and other vulnerable members of society.
We continue to support of the foundation and are delighted to have been instrumental in making important introductions to the group. Mr McFerran told us that the foundation has received lots of feedback from people who told them that the alarms have saved lives.
As a parting message on this subject, I encourage you to cultivate new habits by being inquisitive about home safety – in particular about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. So please take the time to read the important safety steps mentioned below and to explore the RoSPA website:
- Have gas appliances serviced annually by a gas engineer registered with the Gas Safe Register
- CO is not just a by product of burning gas, but of all fossil fuels. So if you have wood, coal or oil burning appliances, have these regularly serviced by professionals too
- Keep rooms adequately ventilated, never block air vents and have chimneys and flues swept regularly
- Remember: CO detectors and alarms are a last resort in the prevention of CO poisoning. They are not a substitute for proper maintenance and servicing.
Advice for preventing CO poisoning applies equally to caravans, boats and holiday homes with fuel-burning appliances, such as heaters or stoves. And following three tragic incidents across the UK this summer, it is vital that people know that they should never take barbecues or stoves into tents to keep warm.
If you live in rented property, ask your landlord to show you the Landlord’s Gas Safety Record. This is something that students in particular should bear in mind at this time of year, when they are looking for accommodation.
Know what you’re looking for when it comes to symptoms: if you, your family, or even your pets show signs of prolonged flu-like symptoms, or if your appliances’ pilot lights burn with an orange flame rather than blue, it could be time to get your home checked.
For more information on the dangers of carbon monoxide and other home safety concerns please visit www.rospa.com.
Ita McErlean, RoSPA’s home safety manager in Northern Ireland