Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Are you a member of the tit club?

You'll be pleased to know that we didn't make a glaring error in the title of our blog post, but rather that we wanted to draw your attention to a very important fire safety campaign known as TestItTuesday!

The meaning behind TestItTuesday

Apart from it being a rather catchy name, it serves an important message to householders whether they are home owners or tenants – or perhaps even businesses to ensure that the testing of smoke alarms takes place on a Tuesday.

According to a Government report issued back in 2012, only 12% of people test their smoke alarm every week to ensure it is working as it should. A fire alarm is only useful to you and your family if it works. From batteries that have been removed to a faulty fire alarm, there are many reasons why testing a smoke alarm weekly should form part of your Tuesday routine.

Testing your smoke alarm

The testing of a smoke alarm is a straightforward procedure that you can do yourself or even get the kids to help you with. Simply press the Test button on your smoke alarm to ensure it emits a high pitched beep.

If you can't reach your smoke alarm, the use of a broom handle is far safer than attempting to stand on a chair to carry out the testing.

However, you test your smoke alarm, it is important that you don't forget! So set up a reminder in your phone, or write a note in your diary....or you could even have a household rota to do this very important task. As fire alarm maintenance specialists in London, we unfortunately come across many householders who do not test their fire alarm at all.

What type of fire alarm is best?

Of course any working smoke alarm is better than no alarm at all! Simple battery operated smoke alarms can be purchased at a small cost on the high street. In some areas, the fire service will fit fire alarms for you free of charge.

Fire alarms can consist of:

  • Ionisation smoke alarms which are still commonly used in the UK. These type of alarms are best suited to areas such as landing and office environments where fires would consist of fast flaming fires such as wood or paper.

  • Optical smoke alarms. Here at Fulcher Edwards, we recommend that homes are fitted with both an ionisation smoke alarm and an optical smoke alarm. Optical alarms are best suited to areas with soft furnishings such as bedrooms, lounges or even hall ways. Optical alarms are less likely to activate during 'false alarms' like burnt toast – the bain of many smoke alarms!

  • Heat Alarms. It is important that heat alarms are installed in the right areas within your home. When we fit fire alarm systems to businesses and householders in London, we often come across heat alarms that have been installed incorrectly. Heat alarms are not suitable for living spaces in your home. They are commonly located in areas such as kitchens and garages as they can detect excessive temperatures and unusual speeds of temperature rises.

  • Combination smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. These are a convenient all in one unit that detects both smoke and CO. Here at Fulcher Edwards, we highly recommend that all UK homes have both smoke alarms and CO detectors – ideally one on every floor of your home. A combination alarm prevents your ceiling becoming cluttered with alarms! These devices emit different beeps to let you know the cause of the problem.

All versions of fire alarms can be fitted as battery or mains powered versions. As fire alarm engineers in London, we recommend the use of mains powered smoke alarms as these are also backed up by batteries in the event of a power failure. Essentially you receive double the protection.

Have your alarms fitted professionally

Where the smoke alarms are fitted in your home does matter. Installation of basic smoke alarms is very simple, often with just a screw or sticky fitting, mains powered smoke alarms must always be fitted by a qualified and registered electrician.

Using a qualified and registered electrician or fire alarm engineer to install your smoke alarms will mean they'll be fitted in the right part of your home, to ensure that not only will you be able to hear it when you're asleep, but also detect the smoke in the first place!

Generally speaking, fitting a fire alarm as near to the staircase as possible on the ground floor, and on the landing on every floor in your home is normally sufficient.

What happens if my alarm doesn't work when tested?

If your smoke alarm is mains powered, then it could be a fault that has developed. It is important that you contact a qualified and registered electrician as soon as possible.

Try new batteries if your smoke alarm is battery powered, if it's not that, you will need to replace the whole alarm.

Make checking your smoke alarm part of your daily routine

Remember to use TestItTuesday to remember to test your smoke alarm regularly! We can almost hear the sound of all those beeps now!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Electrical dangers in the home – are you at risk?

This week 15 - 21st September 2014 is Gas Safety Week. In homage to our gas engineer friends, and to highlight the importance of maintaining both gas and electrical appliances so they remain safe to use, we are going discuss the dangers of both!

Before you turn on your heating...

Stop! Have you checked if your boiler is safe? Dodgy heaters and boilers are probably causing a potential problem on your own street! Are you one of them? According to the gas safe register, in some areas of the UK, 1 in 11 boilers are unsafe, and just as alarmingly, 1 in 3 gas fires are unsafe too! From a blocked flue to dodgy electrical wiring on the heating control, it is essential that dangerous problems are found before you flick the switch to on!

The best way to check all is well is to have gas appliances and electrical appliances that have large motors or run at high speeds such as washing machines serviced once a year. Of course such services will need to be carried out by qualified trades people. Gas appliances by a qualified and Gas safe registered engineer and electrical appliances by a qualified and registered electrician.

Just because it works doesn't mean it's safe

As electricians in South East London, we often come across dangerous electrical problems. Is is particularly the case at this time of year, as more people start thinking about putting on their heating and having the lights on for longer.

Telling a customer that their home is dangerous is never easy especially when they can see their lights are working “It's always worked this way” is a common expression we hear often at Fulcher Edwards. Unfortunately we often come across dangerous wiring where attempts to get the lighting working have been made. Although the lights are on, what the person doesn't realise is that damage is being caused all the while the light is in use. Damage to cable, overheating, and worst of all risk of electric shock.

If you are guilty of carrying out make shift repairs on electrical appliances, do the right thing and check the appliance is still safe by having it serviced. Electrical appliances, plugs and cables that are old or incorrectly wired are a real danger. Do not wait for a fire or someone being injured or killed from an electric shock to find this out.

Signs of danger

Carrying out your own visual checks on electrical appliances in your home will prevent accidental electrical shock.

  • Check for tears or damage to cable and untwist or unkink the cable when using appliances.
  • Check the plug is in place firmly and no wires are visible around the plug or the cable.
  • Do not be tempted to wrap insulation tape around visible wires.
  • Replace faulty electrical appliances or call an electrician to look at large appliances.
  • Plugs or sockets that heat up excessively in use are signs of faulty or loose wiring. As electricians in London, we recommend you call a qualified and registered electrician for advice.

Do you have a carbon monoxide alarm?

Carbon monoxide alarms are as important as a fire alarm. Our team of expert fire alarm engineers in London recommend the installation of both mains powered fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Just 60 seconds of high level exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) can kill you. If you do not have a CO detector, we highly recommend you get one before switching on your gas appliances. Don't forget coal fires and any fuel burning appliance used in a confined space will give off CO. Most cases of CO poisoning are caused by blocked or cracked flues or chimneys. Most people are completely unaware of these problems and rely on a CO alarm to alert them.

Keep your home cosy this Winter, but above all stay safe. Never take risks with electricity or gas. If you suspect a problem, call a qualified and registered gas engineer or electrician as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Are you using electrical appliances safely?

Here at Fulcher Edwards we spend a lot of our time promoting electrical safety especially when it comes to staying electrically safe at home and at work. We have seen and heard our share of electrical 'horror stories' and it is fair to say that not every electrical accident is down to dodgy wiring!

You don't need to spend money to stay electrically safe!

Unfortunately there are people out there who feel that electricians are seeing pound notes flashing before their eyes when they recommend electrical safety precautions are taken in homes. In most cases this is not the case.

In fact, using electricity in a safe way won't cost you anything at all – just a little care and attention. As electricians in London, we come across dangerous practices on an almost daily basis! Many people actually forget that what they are doing is dangerous, (old habits die hard!) Do you fall foul to any of these dangerous practices?

  • Using switches and sockets with wet hands

Just finished the washing up? Or just out of the shower? Dry your hands before attempting to use switches and sockets! Water and electricity is a potentially lethal combination, never take risks with it!

  • Overloading sockets

Overloading plug sockets can cause overheating and fire. In addition, many people overload extension leads by mistake. Extension leads are not really suitable for kitchen appliances - a kettle and toaster is enough to overload one! If you must use an extension lead in your home, ensure you use a bar type rather than a plug in adapter which could cause damage to the socket itself.

  • Unsafe appliances

Just because an appliance works doesn't mean it safe! We are seeing an influx of slow cookers reappearing in time for Autumn, however we are also hearing stories of people finding them at car boots sales, and other dubious outlets. We have seen some 'interesting' relics including plugs with no shielding – which means that you could receive an electrical shock if you touch the pins whilst taking the plug in or out of the socket or if it's not plugged in properly. If you look at a plug on new appliances, you will see some black shielding on the bottom 2 pins. This is essential protection against electric shock. Do not use any appliance with old style plugs.

  • Unattended appliances

One of the biggest home electrical campaigns at the moment is burns that can be caused by electrical equipment and appliances that are left unattended. The UK electrical charity Electrical Safety First have released a hard hitting video of how dangerous unattended hair straighteners can be. Hair straighteners can reach temperatures hotter than an iron – and we all know how dangerous they can be!

The bright colours often found on hair straighteners have unfortunately been mistaken for toys by young children who have accidentally grabbed hold of hot hair straighteners leaving them with serious burns which require hospital treatment. One tenth of all child burns are in relation to hair straighteners so it really is essential that children are kept away from them. It is of course easier said than done when you have toddlers under your feet whilst you are trying to get ready for work! However, there are some basics which will prevent a nasty burn from occurring:

  • Unplug hair straighteners when not in use.
  • Keep the cord away from where children could grab it.
  • Keep hair straighteners out of reach of children when in use.
  • Hair straighteners can take a while to cool down after use. There are purpose made storage bags for this purpose which means that hot straighteners are not left on the side for a child to accidentally grab.

A childs skin particularly a babies skin is very susceptible to burns and burns to the face can be particularly serious. So much so that Electrical Safety First have been nominated for an award on their video:

Always read instructions on appliances!

It might sound obvious but they can contain some useful safety information that you hadn't thought of – it also ensures you don't put yourself in un-necessary danger.

Never use appliances which are damaged or you have doubts about. These should be replaced. If you suspect that damage has been caused to sockets and even the wiring in your property, then please consult a qualified and registeredelectrician as soon as possible.