London Fire Brigade (LFB) has issued a warning on the dangers of central heating as temperatures drop in the UK.
As thousands of people continue to work from home more regularly and the weather takes a noticeably colder turn, there is a real risk of a rise in fires as people look for cheaper ways to heat their homes as gas prices soar.
Portable heaters – such as halogen heaters – are one of the most common alternatives people use to keep warm, particularly if they are spending a lot of time in one room and want to avoid switching on their central heating.
Fires caused by these types of heaters can have devastating consequences and they are not an unusual occurrence. The Brigade has attended more than 1,200 of them in the last five years. Firefighters are concerned that home workers, confined for most of the day to their spare room or office, may be tempted to use these heaters more this year.
There have already been 160 heating-related fires in London this year, with 26 peoples suffering injuries as a result.
Home workers tempted to use a portable heater should be aware of the dangers. Common causes of heater fires are people using the heaters to dry clothing or leaving things too close to them which then catch light. They can also be started by things like nearby paperwork and in a worst case – could even catch light to a person’s clothes, bedding or blankets if they are too close to the heater.
Fires involving heaters have a high mortality rate and sadly, portable heaters have been the cause of 14 fatal fires in London in the past five years. Almost 200 people have suffered injuries from these types of fires since 2017.
Those with mobility issues using unsafe heating methods are also, sadly, more likely to sustain a fatal injury.
The Brigade is also calling on Londoners to also consider the fire risk of other alternative ways to heat their homes. Never leave the cooker, oven or hob on for heating. A build-up of heat can cause a fire, carbon monoxide poisoning or even death. Never use a barbeque or solid fuel fire indoors unless properly ventilated as this may also cause a significant risk from carbon monoxide. The Brigade encourages everyone to fit carbon monoxide alarms in their home, especially in rooms with solid fuel, gas or paraffin heaters
Electric blankets are also a way to keep warm, but there are some simple tips to follow to keep safe if using them.
They should always be stored flat, rolled up or loosely folded to prevent damaging the internal wiring. Always unplug them before you get into bed unless it has a thermostat control for safe all-night use.
Never use an electric blanket if you have an air flow pressure relief mattress or use emollient creams and if your blanket gets wet, don’t use it and never switch it on to dry it.
Do not buy second-hand electric blankets and check regularly for wear and tear and replace at least every 10 years.
There is help available if energy costs are getting beyond your budget. Citizens Advice provides lots of information about grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills or you can contact your energy company for advice.
If you’re concerned about fire safety in your home or the home of a loved one, it’s worth checking out our online Home Fire Safety Checker, which allows people to receive tailored advice based on their building and guides Londoners around the rooms of their home to help them identify any risks and hazards.