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Last updated: 21/01/2019, 9:55 AM

Working from home can be a fire risk, warn firefighters

21/01/2019 08:38
London-wide
Safety warnings

More than a million and a half people[1] now regularly work from home and London Fire Brigade is warning this could lead to more fires as people look for cheaper ways of heating their homes.

Last year there were around four fires[2] every week in London involving electric heaters, candles and open fires, many of which could have been avoided.

More than half of these occurred between the hours of 9am and 5pm and a common cause was due to portable heaters being placed too close to furniture or candles being used to light a room and falling onto carpets, papers or clothes.

Another risk for people at home is carbon monoxide poisoning from poorly maintained gas appliances such as cookers, heaters, gas fires and solid fuel burners. To help combat this, the Brigade is holding a ‘Safer Heating Week’ to ensure people who need to heat their homes throughout the day, know how to do so safely.

London fire brigade portable heaters

The Brigade’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Andy Hearn said: “While many of the heating-related fires we see involve older people struggling to stay warm in winter, anyone can place an electric heater too close to clothing, blankets or curtains or leave a tea light to burn through its holder.

Our firefighters have attended fires caused by clothes drying over heaters and portable heaters falling over and setting light to furniture, carpets or curtains.

“The aim of our Safer Heating Week is to highlight a regular household item like a portable heater can be dangerous if not used with care and also to encourage people who may not think of themselves as a fire risk to realise they could be.

“It’s not just home workers that are at risk – parents, carers, students and anyone who spends a lot of time in the house could be tempted to try cheaper, dangerous alternatives to keep warm.”

Safer Heating Week[3] ties in with Big Energy Saving Week and the Brigade is also encouraging people to see where they can save on their energy bills so they are not tempted to compromise on safety.

Maria Wardrobe, Director of Communications from National Energy Action, the UK fuel poverty charity, said: “We are delighted to support London Fire Brigade’s week of action.

Safe heating

Read our tips on how to safely heat your home

Read our tips

“It coincides with our own campaign focusing on the need for people to stay warm and safe in their homes by improving the energy efficiency of the home and reducing energy bills.

You could save hundreds of pounds a year on your bills by switching supplier or changing tariffs with your current supplier. Make sure that the supplier also offers you any discounts you may be entitled to such as the Warm Home Discount.

“If you are in debt to your energy supplier and struggling to get on top of it, then speak to your supplier as soon as possible. If they know there is a problem they can work with you to find a solution.”

Firefighters’ tips for using heaters safely

• Make sure heaters are well maintained and in good working order.
• Never install, repair or service appliances yourself. Make sure anyone who does is registered with the Gas Safe Register (for gas appliances), the Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme (HETAS) (for solid fuel appliances), or the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC).
• Don't take risks with old heaters – if it's electrical and getting older, get it tested by a qualified electrician or buy a new one.
• Where appropriate, secure heaters against a wall to stop them falling over, or fit wall-mounted heaters.
• Keep heaters well away from clothes, curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes.
• Always sit at least one metre away from a heater as it could set light to your clothes or chair.
• Before attempting to move your heater, turn it off and allow it to cool first.
• Make sure you have a carbon monoxide alarm in addition to smoke alarms in all rooms of risk
• You can book a free Home Fire Safety Visit at www.london-fire.gov.uk/safety/the-home/home-fire-safety-visits/

Safer Heating Week

Events are taking place at fire stations around London throughout this week for people to learn more about how to heat their homes safely and get advice on how to save money on their heating bills. Partner organisations will also be attending a number of these events for people to get more information.

  • There are two events taking place on Monday, 21 January, at Mitcham Fire Station, 417-429 London Road, Mitcham, from 4pm to 6pm and Leytonstone Fire Station, 466 High Street, Leytonstone, from 2pm to 4pm.
  • On Wednesday, 23 January, there will be events at Shadwell Fire Station, 290 Cable Street, Shadwell, from 3.30pm to 5.30pm and at Plaistow Fire Station, 145 Prince Regent Lane, Plaistow, from 3.30pm to 5.30pm.
  • There are three events being held on Thursday, 24 January, at Islington Fire Station, 278 Upper Street, Islington, from 2pm to 4pm; at Walthamstow Fire Station, 343 Forest Road, Walthamstow, from 2pm to 4pm and at Eltham Fire Station, 266 High Street, Eltham, from 2.30pm to 4.30pm.
  • London Fire Brigade is also joining Ealing Council for an event on Tuesday 22 January at Perceval House, 14-16 Uxbridge Road, Ealing, from 10.30am to 2.30pm.

[1] TUC figures released last year show that 1.6 million people regularly worked from home in 2017.
[2] There were 213 fires in London caused by candles, portable heaters and electric blankets in 2018.
[3] Citizens Advice runs Big Energy Saving Week in close collaboration with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and with the support of numerous organisations, charities and companies.

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