With 11 accidental electrical fires a day in England affecting people aged 65 and over, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service and Electrical Safety First are asking people to check on older neighbours and friends.
Last year in England, 3,849 accidental electrical fires were reported in the homes of people aged 65 and over, the equivalent of 11 a day and accounting for a quarter of all accidental electrical fires reported in dwellings in England during 2017/18. And 81% of these fires happened in homes where the occupant lived alone.
The kitchen is the most hazardous room in the home for older people, with 81% of accidental electrical fires starting there, nearly three quarters of which were due to the misuse of appliances. This winter, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) and consumer protection charity Electrical Safety First are calling on the friends and neighbours of older people in the Humber region to check on them and look out for any electrical safety hazards in their homes.
Electrical accidents in the home can pose a more significant risk to older and more vulnerable people. This is often due to old or poor quality housing that contains faulty electrics and appliances.
Electrical Safety First and HFRS have highlighted some simple visual checks that relatives and neighbours can carry out and help to keep their older friends safe:
• Watch out for overloaded plug sockets – many people use four-way bar adaptors to allow them to plug more appliances in, particularly in older properties that do not have as many sockets. However, just because there is space to plug in four appliances, it does not mean that it is safe to do so. Visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/overloadingsockets to check.
• Do not store flammable “clutter” near the electrical intake or on top of microwaves.
• Make sure that any portable heaters are being used safely. They should not be used to dry or heat clothes and shout not be left switched on and unattended. Also watch out for trailing cables that can cause a trip hazard.
• Check that electric blankets are in good condition and that manufacturers’ instructions are followed. If a blanket is more than ten years old, consider buying a new one from a retailer that you trust.
• Make sure that electrical products have not been subject to a recall or safety notice. You can carry out a simple search using Electrical Safety First’s online product checker, which can be found at www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/recall
Phil Buckle, Chief Executive at Electrical Safety First, commented:
“Older people, particularly those living alone, are disproportionately at risk from electrical hazards in the home. We are encouraging people to check in on their older friends and relatives, and look around for potential safety risks and act to prevent electrical fires and the distress that they can cause. While there is an increased risk during the colder winter months, when there is more reliance on portable heaters and electric blankets, please check on the older people living near you all the year round”.
HFRS Public Safety Group Manager Steve Duffield said:
“A high number of accidental fires in the homes of older people living in our area are caused by the misuse of electrical products, with the kitchen the most dangerous room in the house. Make sure that the older people living near you have working smoke alarms and check that the appliances that they are using are in good working order. By taking the time to carry out a few simple checks on behalf of your older friends, you can give them the peace of mind that they can continue to live independently and safely in their own homes”.
For more advice on electrical safety for older people, visit: https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/guides-and-advice/for-older-people/
Electrical Safety First is a UK charity dedicated to reducing and preventing damage, injuries and death caused by electricity. More information can be found at electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk
All data unless otherwise stated are from Home Office Fire Statistics on incidents attended by Fire and Rescue Services. Figures from financial year 2017/18. Accessible at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/fire-statistics-data-tables#incident-level-datasets