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Stay safe from the 'silent killer'

L-R Lucy Chant, Ben Hirst & Helen Peart

Lucy Chant pictured (left) with Ben Hirst from Sprue Safety Products and Helen Peart of the Warm Homes Healthy People Project (Photo courtesy of the Manchester Evening News)

As the installation of carbon monoxide alarms becomes compulsory in Scotland when a new fuel-burning appliance is fitted, Manchester school teacher Lucy Chant - a trustee of The Katie Haines Memorial Trust - whose close friend Katie died tragically in 2010 as a result of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, explains why regular awareness campaigns are so important in ensuring people understand the dangers, symptoms and ways to protect themselves from this silent killer

This year’s Gas Safety Week and the Carbon Monoxide - be Alarmed! Campaign have revealed some frightening new statistics on the number of people who are living with unsafe heating appliances.

We service our cars, but when it comes to potentially the most dangerous appliances in our homes, it is staggering to see how many are left unchecked, putting occupants at risk of both fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.
I know only too well what the devastating consequences of carbon monoxide can be. My lovely friend Katie Haines may still be here if she had known the dangers. Katie was 31, newly married and the happiest I had ever seen her. One evening in February, 2010, Katie got home from work, fed the cat and ran a bath. She got into the tub for her soak, but didn’t get out again. My kind, fun-loving friend had succumbed to the silent killer, carbon monoxide after fumes had leaked from a malfunctioning boiler.

It is thought the invisible and odourless gas would have made her drowsy and, as she tried to stand up, she may have fallen and hit her head on the bath, before eventually drowning in the water.

As a result of her tragic death, Katie’s parents and husband set up the Katie Haines Memorial Trust in an attempt to educate and raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. I have since become a trustee of the charity.

As a teacher, I’m lucky to be able to educate my pupils to ensure they and their families understand the dangers and how to stay safe. Events such as Gas Safety Week and the Carbon Monoxide be-Alarmed! Campaign also do a great job in raising awareness. By sharing personal experiences and startling facts, people will hopefully take notice and take action.

We want something positive to come from Katie's death; that everyone in the UK takes preventative measures to make sure that they do not fall victim to carbon monoxide. The danger is - with no taste or smell - CO is undetectable to the human senses and because symptoms are often mistaken for other ailments such as flu, food poisoning or hangovers, its presence can go unnoticed until it’s too late. Even low levels over a few hours can be as lethal as high levels over a short amount of time, causing lasting damage to your health.

The only way to detect it is with an audible carbon monoxide alarm which warns you before the gas becomes life threatening so action can be taken. This is how I was saved.
I was lucky. I was woken by my carbon monoxide alarm sounding. It indicated high levels of the gas coming from the boiler. If we hadn’t had the alarm, we could have been dead within three hours. The boiler was subsequently condemned.

With increasingly severe cold weather and rising heating costs, some are taking dangerous measures to keep heat in, such as blocking flues and chimneys. However, in doing so, any leaking carbon monoxide can become trapped inside.

In March this year, we were delighted to team up with the Warm Homes, Healthy People Project (WHHP) in Trafford and Sprue Safety Products to donate 50 FireAngel carbon monoxide alarms to vulnerable Trafford residents who may be in poor health and at risk of living in cold housing.

This donation is an important part of the Trust’s drive to ensure everyone understands carbon monoxide and takes preventative measures to protect themselves. As a result of this donation, more people in Manchester will now be protected.

Know the signs:
Although you can’t see, smell or taste carbon monoxide, there are signs that indicate there may be a strong risk of CO being produced:
• Black soot marks or staining on or around gas fire burners or on walls near cookers, boilers or gas fires
• Excessive condensation in the room where the appliance is installed
• If you are using a gas appliance, it should have a crisp blue flame, such as a pilot light. If it turns to a lazy orange flame, the appliance may not be working correctly

Recognise the symptoms:
Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
• Nausea
• Dizziness
• Breathlessness
• Headaches
• Loss of consciousness
• Collapse
One useful indicator that carbon monoxide may be the cause is if symptoms disappear when you leave your home and reappear when you’re at home.


Make sure your home is not at risk and stay safe this winter:
• Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm. If your house or flat is attached to another property or garage but you don’t have gas, you still need a CO alarm as the poisonous gas can come through walls. Carbon monoxide can be produced by any appliance that burns fuel; boilers, stoves, fires and water heaters
• Make sure you have a gas safety certificate for all gas appliances, fittings and flues. Landlords are legally obliged to provide an up-to-date gas safety certificate
• Get your gas, oil, or solid fuel appliances checked every 12 months by a registered Gas Safe, OFTEC or HETAS service engineer. It’s important to ask to look at the engineer’s card to make sure he/she is registered and able to deal with the appliances requiring service
• Have your chimney swept and flues checked regularly by a trained and competent person. For more advice visit: http://nacs.org.uk/frequently-asked-questions/, http://www.guildofmasterchimneysweeps.co.uk/safety_carbone.p... or http://www.hetas.co.uk/
• Never use a gas, oil or solid fuel appliance if you think it is not working properly
• Never cover an appliance or block air vents, flues or air bricks
• Ensure your home is well ventilated. CO can be emitted from any appliance burning combustible fuel, e.g. gas (mains or bottled), solid fuel (coal, wood, etc), petrol, oil or paraffin

For more information and advice, visit: www.katiehaines.com or Gas Safe Register: www.gassaferegister.co.uk/. For more information on carbon monoxide alarms available from Sprue Safety Products, visit: http://www.fireangel.co.uk/ or www.sprue.com

- ENDS-

Notes to Editors:
Sprue Safety Products has produced an installation video for its FireAngel CO-9X carbon monoxide alarm to clarify how to fix and locate a CO alarm correctly. This can be seen at: http://youtu.be/6oUoon1GVNg. Further guidance is available in BS EN 50292. For more information on Sprue’s complete range of carbon monoxide and smoke alarms visit: www.sprue.com or www.fireangel.co.uk or www.brk.co.uk


Sprue Safety Products’ range of products under the FireAngel, First Alert and BRK brands offer a level of protection and performance that few can match. Supported by a strong commitment to quality and customer service, the brand is established as a market leader worldwide, a firm favourite with wholesalers, specifiers and electrical installers.

Sprue Safety Products specialises in designing, manufacturing and supplying products that save lives, with a comprehensive range of products that provide peace of mind and keep you safe.

Sprue Safety Products Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sprue Aegis plc. Sprue Aegis has won five prestigious Sunday Times Fast Track Awards, which recognises the fastest growing companies in the UK.

About Sprue Aegis plc
Group overview
With its head office in Coventry, UK, Sprue is Europe’s leading home safety products supplier. Sprue designs and sells smoke and carbon monoxide alarms including other safety related products throughout Europe under the FireAngel, First Alert, BRK, Dicon and AngelEye brands. Sprue enjoys a strong European market presence, a leading UK retail and utility footprint, is the supplier of choice to the UK’s Fire and Rescue Services and continues to develop its market share in the UK’s trade sector. Sprue has an established network of independent distributors within Continental Europe providing access into these key growth markets through local partners.

Patented technology
Sprue has patented technology in Europe, the US and other selected territories and its range of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms is independently certified to the latest European standards. For further product information, please visit: www.fireangel.co.uk or www.firstalert.co.uk or www.brk.co.ukor www.sprue.com

Company ethos
We make products that save lives. It is a simple philosophy. Everything we do is focused on providing market leading smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that achieve this objective.
We are serious about carbon monoxide and smoke detection and believe everyone should be properly protected with affordable and reliable home safety products from a company with brands you can trust.

We work with passion and seek to inspire those that work for us in the same way. We encourage our staff to “make a difference” to our business every day.

Date of issue: 8th October 2013
For further media information, or to arrange an interview, please contact Jane Duncan at Sprue Safety Products on: 02476 323232 or email: jduncan@sprue.com