London Fire Brigade (LFB) has warned people who use portable heaters, wood burners or open fires as alternative ways to heat their homes during the cost-of-living crisis, to take extra care.
Last year there were 256 heating-related fires across London. Three people died while 35 were injured. So far this year there have been 148, including an elderly disabled woman in north London, who died after an electric heater got caught under her recliner chair.
The popularity of portable heaters to warm a single room has increased as energy bills have soared, but charity Electrical Safety First has highlighted the dangers of leaving heaters unattended, on unstable surfaces, or when used to dry clothes.
Although electric heaters are not inherently dangerous, the charity said, they could cause devastating fires if not used with care. Fan heaters in particular, pose a greater risk in the home.
In a survey of 3,000 people by Electrical Safety First, 42% of those asked were definitely using or considering using an electric heater to heat a single room in their home, because of concerns over the rising cost of central heating. That was an 8% increase compared with a similar survey a year ago, when bills were already going up. A third of those asked were planning to use a heater for the first time.
The charity recommends that people using heaters ensure:
- the device is on a level surface, away from anything or anyone that could knock it over
- it is away from combustible materials, such as paper, furniture, or curtains
- it is never used to dry clothes
- it is never left unattended for long periods while in use, or while you are asleep
- extension leads are not used to power a heater as they can easily be overloaded
- regularly inspect the heater for damage and deterioration
- Buy the heater from a reputable retailer
- Check regularly for product recalls
- Ensure a working smoke alarm is fitted on every floor of the home.
"Heating your home should never come at the expense of your own safety. While portable heaters can be useful to heat a small space, they can pose a real risk to your home and your life if mistakes are made when using them," said Lesley Rudd, chief executive of Electrical Safety First. With the significant number of people set to turn to these appliances this winter, it is vital we use them safely."
LFB's assistant commissioner for fire safety, Charlie Pugsley, said: "Fire caused by heaters, open fires and electrical items can be very intense and spread very quickly. There is a risk that some people, in a bid not to pay more, may end up paying an even higher price - through a fire that causes them serious injury or even costs them their life."
For further electrical home safety information and tips visit Electrical items - Fire safety at home | London Fire Brigade (london-fire.gov.uk) and Saving Money Safely | Electrical Safety First
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