Tuesday, 25 November 2014

How a smoke alarm could save your life this Christmas

Christmas seems to come earlier every year! Here at Fulcher Edwards, we are working in homes and businesses across London who already have their Christmas decorations up. Such festivities can quickly brighten up dreary old November, but can also be a huge fire risk.

Have you seen this video? This is how quickly a fire can engulf a room. In just 60 seconds, a living room is engulfed in flames and thick black smoke. http://youtu.be/hMtjGfr0tYs

The fire is caused by not turning off Christmas lighting, a simple thing to do you may think, but it is surprising how many people simply leave them on overnight or when out and about. Like any other electrical item, Christmas tree lights can develop faults. Lights that have not been stored correctly could have damage to the delicate wires and older lights that are not LED have an even greater risk of over heating and catching fire.

Christmas decorations just add to the mix

Once a fire starts Christmas trees particularly real trees can form the perfect fuel for a growing fire. Paper chains and other flammable decorations will add to the mix. Of course no household or business can guarantee to be 100% fire free once their decorations are in place. The speed in which fire can develop is truly frightening – a fire like in the video could occur whilst you are in another room in your home! This is why it is essential to have at least one smoke alarm in your property.

How can a fire alarm help?

A fire alarm detects fumes that contribute to the start of an actual fire. Burning, smouldering and overheating take place some time before the fire itself starts. In the case of the video, a fire alarm may pick up fumes given off by the tree lights prior to the fire starting. The activation of the fire alarm would ensure that the occupants of the house are able to get out safely before the fire becomes unmanageable.

Remember that smoke alarms also need testing. Test it Tuesday is a very popular campaign aimed at getting people to test their smoke alarms every Tuesday. Today is the last Tuesday before Advent begins, and the weekend will see many more households join in with the Christmas hype and decorate their homes with all manner of decorations!

Before you begin, ensure that your smoke alarm is working.

The Fulcher Edwards Christmas check list

As electricians in South East London, we see many cases of risks being taken when it comes to Christmas decorations. Overloaded extension leads, decorations that are a fire and an electrical hazard and dangerously positioned trees and other decorations. Reduce the risk of house fire and ensure your electrical safety by:

  • Checking Christmas lighting, both indoor and outdoor for damage before assembling. Check cables are free of damage, plugs are intact and crucially check for blown bulbs before hanging them.

  • Are your bulbs LED? LED lights are far safer and are less likely to over heat. If a bulb does blow, the lighting will need to be replaced as bulbs are not replaceable. LED lights are now sold as standard in shops.

  • Ensure that lights used outside are suitable for outside use.

  • Minimise the use of extension leads. Never be tempted to plug an extension lead into another extension lead.

  • Consider the use of timers. These will ensure that your lights go off at a set time. It is easy to forget to switch lights off especially if they are outside or in a window.

  • Never place trees or decorations near to sources of heat such as fires or electric heaters. The heat from them can ignite flammable objects nearby.

  • Never carry out repairs using insulation tape or try to connect one set of lights to another set by connecting the wires.

  • If you have any doubt about the safety of your lights at any point, turn them off immediately and do not use them.

  • Purchase flame resistant decorations and trees. Old decorations and some real trees are not flame resistant and will just make a fire worse if one occurs.

Finally, remember to keep checking your smoke alarm weekly throughout Christmas (and beyond!) Christmas time sees a huge increase in house fires with the added decorations, people being off guard and the increased risk of cooking related fire.

If you have any concern about the safety of your home electrics, it is not too late to have a pre Christmas electrical safety check carried out. Contact us today to find out more.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Is an electrical item under product recall affecting your home electrics?

What type of action do you take if you become aware of an electrical appliance in your home that may be dangerous? According to research carried out by the electrical safety charity Electrical Safety First, only 10-20% of electrical goods that are placed under recall are ever actually returned.

What is a product recall?

A product recall is an item that has been found by the manufacturer to be dangerous. They need to try and get the product back from you and will normally exchange it for a safe version or refund your money.

It is important that you act on a product recall notice if you become aware of it. Electrical items under product recall have the potential to cause electrical injury or even death if you continue to use them, even if you are using them perfectly safely.

Despite this, 2 million adults in the research admitted to ignoring a product recall notice. This is quite alarming given the risks of using dangerous electrical products which include fire and electric shock. Here at Fulcher Edwards, we have had several of our clients in the past tell us about their recalled electrical product that is “still going strong”.

How often are electrical products recalled?

Another myth about product recalls is that they are rare. This is not quite right. Since 2011, 288 electrical products have been put on product recall. These products include seven types of fridges, four types of washing machine and seven types of hair dryers.

Electrical products of all sizes can be re called, and each product carries the same electrical risks regardless of it's size.

So why are people not responding to product re call notices? Electrical Safety First believe that this is down to the lack of awareness of the extent of the danger electrical products can cause. Respondents to the research carried out by the ESC suggested that product recall notices were regarded as nothing more than annoying faults.

Can products under electrical recall cause damage to electrics?

Yes they can. As electricians in London, we have on several occasions carried out repair work on home electrical installations that have been damaged as a result of an electrical item on product recall. Electrical items under product recall could be at high risk of catching fire – this may be the reason for the recall in the first place. If a fire was to occur then damage caused to the socket and internal wiring can be extensive and costly to repair. In worse cases a serious house fire could occur.

Here at Fulcher Edwards, we highly recommend that you act on a product recall notice should you receive one and never leave your electrical safety to chance. If you are concerned that an electrical item subject to product recall could have caused damage to your electrics, we recommend that you contact a qualified and registered electrician as soon as you can.

Damage can become more costly to repair the longer it is left, so ask an electrician to investigate sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Carbon Monoxide alarms save lives – and the life you save could be your own

The importance of carbon monoxide alarms should never be under estimated, yet they are often overlooked or worse still mistaken in identity.

As installers of fire alarms systems in London we advise landlords, business owners and home owners of the importance of not just a working fire alarm, but also a working carbon monoxide (CO) alarm. In many cases, customers believe that their fire alarm also acts as a carbon monoxide alarm and don't realise that they actually need a separate CO alarm to be protected.

Fact: A fire alarm is NOT a CO alarm.

Other facts about CO alarms

At this time of year, problems with CO once again return. Dangerous levels of CO in the home are the result of the CO not being able to exit your home in a safe way. CO leaks through cracks and poor joins in chimneys, flues and other outlets in your home. The CO levels build up in confined areas and can cause death to householders if the levels are high enough. CO problems are rarely the result of faulty appliances.

  • Having boilers and other fuel appliances serviced does not protect you from CO poisoning. You still need a CO alarm.

Carbon Monoxide is often referred to as the silent killer. You may have heard of the dangers via television advertisements. CO is odourless and colourless and you would not be aware that you were breathing it in. As electricians in London, we have heard on many occasions that CO is smelt on appliances and in the air. If you can smell fuel like gas, oil or any other unwanted odour from a fuel burning appliance then this is a different matter. It is not CO that you are smelling, however you still need to have the appliance looked at to rule out other problems with it.

  • You cannot smell, see or taste CO. If you can smell fuel like gas or oil, this is a different problem.

Installing a CO alarm is often seen as a hassle for householders who just feel like CO alarms get in the way and they don't know which ones to get. Firstly, CO alarms come in a range of options. Here at Fulcher Edwards, we often install dual fire alarms and CO alarms. These 'all in one' mains powered devices save on ceiling clutter and ensures reliable operation of both your fire and CO alarm system. However, no specialist technical skill is required to obtain CO protection in your home. It it possible to purchase CO alarms that are free standing and require no screws or attachments.

As electricians in South East London, we are often asked where the best place is to install CO alarms. We always recommend following the manufacturers instructions for best placement of your CO alarm. However CO is slightly lighter than air and therefore does rise so it makes sense to place a CO alarm on a ceiling away from corners where air can stagnate.

  • No fixing of CO alarms is needed, however do take care over where CO alarms are placed. Having a CO smoke alarm is 100% better than not having one at all however.

Never under estimate how dangerous carbon monoxide can be. Many householders we speak to think that CO is the result of poor household maintenance or negligence. This is far from the case. There are survivors of CO who have had a lucky escape with CO, however 40 people die from CO poisoning every year in the UK. A room with extremely high levels of CO within it will kill you within less than 3 minutes and you would become unconscious after 2-3 breaths. Symptoms of CO poisoning are often mistaken for other Winter 'bugs' and include head aches, dizziness and nausea. If you are suffering from these symptoms and do not have a CO alarm, we highly recommend you do so ASAP. CO levels can rise to dangerous life threatening levels quickly without your knowledge.

  • Never under estimate the danger of CO poisoning. Any home which have fuel burning appliances such as a boiler, gas oven/hob, log burner, open fire, gas fire is at risk.

Pay attention to your CO alarm once installed. In the same way you test your fire alarm, here at Fulcher Edwards we recommend you test your CO alarm at the same time. The recommendation is to test your smoke alarm once every week. In addition take note of any screen display messages. CO alarms have a CO sensor and it is vital that this works as it should. Regular servicing of mains powered CO detectors will ensure that the sensor is working correctly. CO sensors normally have a lifespan of 6 years, it is recommended that the alarms are replaced after this time if it is not worth replacing the CO sensors.

  • Test and maintain your CO alarm in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.

Get a CO alarm before you switch on your heating this year

If you haven't switched on your heating yet this year, then this is an ideal opportunity to get yourself protected from the dangers of CO. With the weather gradually turning chillier, we will start to see increases of CO problems. Make sure you won't be this years victims.