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Carbon Monoxide awareness highlighted in Coronation Street

03 January 2013

During the festive season Coronation Street's Fiz Brown (played by Jennie McAlpine) had the task of playing out a scene that sees her succumb to CO (Carbon Monoxide) poisoning.

This may seem like a dramatic story line only used keep us glued to our screens over the Christmas holidays, however, it is estimated that around 50 people are killed and at least 4000 people are treated in hospital in the UK as a cause of CO poisoning. The Carbon Monoxide - Be Alarmed group suggests that these figures are most likely higher.

The CO Be Alarmed Group carried out a survey which highlighted that only 39% of responders to the survey have a CO alarm in their house and that almost half of the UK mistakenly believed that their smoke detectors would also detect CO.

The Coronation Street story line showed Fiz recruiting the services of her friend Tyrone to fix her boiler. Tyrone is not qualified to carry out maintenance on boilers and actually is a car mechanic by trade. Usually, the Christmas period unfortunately results in the breakage of many boilers and people seeking a quick fix. Quick fixes often result in seeking help from those who are not qualified to carry out an inspection or repair work, which ultimately leads to appliance failure and CO leaks.

In tradition, the Christmas period would have seen many of us firing up our heating systems and fires to create that perfect cosy Christmas atmosphere. However, if the boiler or flue has not been maintained or serviced adequately by a qualified Heating Engineer the results, as demonstrated in Coronation Street could lead to an unforgiving outcome.

The Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) has developed a list of tips to help homeowners ensure that their boiler/flue is maintained correctly:

1.    Ensure that your Heating Engineer is Gas Safe Registered - ask to see their ID and remember you are in your right to see this prior to any work carried out
2.    Ensure that your boiler is serviced annually
3.    An installer can also be a member of the HHIC - you can also ask for proof of this if you would like some added reassurance
4.    Place a Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector inside your home
5.    Be aware of the symptoms caused by CO poisoning - the six main symptoms are: headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapsing and loss of consciousness

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are also an informative source of information and have provided the following tips for the indication of combustion which would result in the production of Carbon Monoxide:

1.    Yellow or orange flames - flames should be blue (except fuel effect fires or flueless appliances which display this colour flame)
2.    Soot or yellow/brown staining around or on appliances
3.    Pilot lights that frequently blow out
4.    Increased condensation inside windows

What if you are the Heating Engineer?

As a heating Engineer you have the above knowledge to share with your clients to ensure that they aware what must be done and so that they are aware of the effects of exposure to CO. Use this information to create a sense of awareness in your client through empowering them with your knowledge.

As well as this, all Heating Engineers must be Gas Safe registered. Being a member of the HHIC is optional but will provide your clients with the reassurance that you are competent with the work that you are carrying out.

Heating Engineers are also now required to have a CPA1. The Gas Safe Register announced a year ago that all registered gas engineers who have or are due to gain ACS modules CEN1 or HTR1 now require the flue gas analyser qualification CPA1. Gas engineers who do not hold the CPA1 will have their CEN1 and/or HTR1 suspended. Click here to find out more about CPA1 and to see a range of Flue Gas Analysers to help you.

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