Free Carbon Monoxide Alarms for vulnerable people

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A partnership between Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service and Wales & West Utilities is helping to raise awareness of the support that residents within Devon and Somerset can receive.

Yaz Murfin, Partnership Officer for Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service said: "Wales & West Utilities are now providing our CO alarms, which means as a service we are able to deliver CO alarms to more vulnerable people in our communities. Additionally, they can install locking cooker valves, which allow people to live independently for longer."

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service (DSFRS) have technicians that deliver free Home Safety Visits to vulnerable clients as well as provide advice on fire safety and escape routes. They also install smoke alarms and other specialist equipment.

If it is identified that a vulnerable client is at risk of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning, a CO alarm will be provided as part of a Home Safety Visit. These CO alarms are provided by Wales & West Utilities, the company that look after the pipes that supply gas to homes and businesses across Devon and Somerset. During the visit the technicians can register the client for a range of Wales & West Utilities support measures, including the Priority Service Register (PSR), which helps energy companies look after people who need it most.

Wales & West Utilities offers a range of other free services including the Warm Home Assistance Scheme as well other initiatives to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. The company was the first gas network to have been recognised for meeting requirements, in line with the prestigious British Standard 18477, for its work to help vulnerable customers.

Nigel Winnan, Customer and Social Obligations Manager at Wales & West Utilities said: "While most of the gas network is underground and out of sight, it plays a central role in the daily lives of people across Devon and Somerset. Whether it's heating your home, making the family dinner or having a hot bath, we understand how important it is for your gas supply to be safe and reliable and there when you need it.

"We're also committed to supporting those who need us most — and partnerships like this one allow us to reach people that we wouldn't be able to otherwise. We're looking forward to continuing to work with DSFRS to support customers in the most vulnerable situations."

Currently, DSFRS has a team of Technicians delivering Home Safety Visits on weekdays and evenings, giving advice and providing specialist equipment.

Community Safety Officer, Mike Toop said: "We are really pleased to be working with Wales & West Utilities, a partnership that started over five years ago after a conversation at the Bath and West show. What began in East Somerset now covers the whole of our Service area. It has proved of great benefit to the most vulnerable people in our community ensuring their homes are safer."

The dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas that is released when any fossil fuel that burns- not just gas- doesn't burn properly. This can happen when:

An appliance hasn't been fitted correctly
An appliance has been poorly maintained
A flue, chimney or vent is blocked
CO poisoning happens when you breathe in even small amounts of this poisonous gas. Every year 40 people die and over 4,000 are injured as a result of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Even low levels of exposure, over a long period, can cause serious health issues.

A headache is the most common symptom of mild carbon monoxide poisoning. Other symptoms can include:

dizziness
nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
tiredness and confusion
stomach pain
shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to those of food poisoning and the flu. However, unlike the flu, carbon monoxide poisoning does not cause a high temperature (fever).

If you think you have carbon monoxide poisoning, you should:

Leave the contaminated area immediately and get out in to the open air
Seek urgent medical advice from either your GP or your A&E department.
Open the windows and doors to ventilate the room, and don't sleep in it
Switch off all your gas appliances and don't use them again until the problem has been fixed
Shut off the gas supply at the meter control valve- if gas continues to escape, call the Gas Emergency Free phone Number on 0800 111 999
Call a Gas Safe registered engineer to check all your gas appliances.
Staying safe

Look out for gas appliances that are burning with a floppy yellow or orange flame that is normally crisp and blue, extra condensation inside windows, pilot lights on boilers frequently blowing out; and soot or yellow stains around appliances. All these could be signs of a problem. Once a year, you should employ a registered installer to service all appliances powered by any fuel that burns, and sweep your chimneys and flues. Get an audible alarm which is certified to British Standard BS EN 50291. These cost around £15 and you can buy them from your local DIY store, supermarket or energy supplier. Remember, alarms are important but they're not a substitute for annual safety checks.

Wales & West Utilities, the gas emergency and pipeline service, brings energy to 7.5m people across the south west of England and Wales. If anyone smells gas, or thinks they have a gas leak, they should call us on 0800 111 999 and our engineers will be there to help, day or night