Rising electrical fire danger sparks official warning

24 September 2012

Electrical Fire Safety Week - blunder fires

The Electrical Safety Council urges public to think safety as ‘blunder fires’ increase, fuelled by public naivety and growing number of high risk electrical items in homes.

New research from the Electrical Safety Council shows an alarming rise in fires caused by the misuse of appliances in the home.  Appliance misuse is already the top cause of all fires in British homes with millions of people committing everyday safety ’blunders’ without realising the risk of fire. The Charity, whose campaign is supported by the Chief Fire Officers Association, has issued guidance, and top tips to help combat these easily avoidable safety mistakes.

Britain’s biggest blunders [and the percentage of UK public committing them]:

  • Creating a fire hazard by using the microwave as an additional surface and blocking air vents (33%)
  • Increasing the risk of serious fire spreading by leaving the tumble dryer running unattended or overnight (9%)
  • Blocking air vents by failing to clean behind their fridge/freezer (44%)
  • Overloading adaptor sockets, causing an unsafe rise in temperature (16%)
  • Leaving an electrical appliance on while unattended, only to be alerted by a burning smell (9%

Overall, a staggering three quarters  of UK adults confessed to committing at least one simple safety blunder or misuse of an electrical appliance. The Electrical Safety Council believes that there is a clear link between this lack of understanding and the surge in ‘blunder fires’.

Fires caused by misuse of appliances have increased by over a third since 2009 , despite there being an overall decline in house fires, with chip pan fires plummeting by two thirds and fires started through smoking dropping by a third . On average, fires caused by misuse of appliances kill 22 people, seriously injure about 2,500  and cost tens of millions of pounds in damage each year . In the last year alone, there were 14,700 fires of this nature.
Concern is heightened by the fact that there has been a considerable increase in the number of higher risk appliances in our homes – since 2004, the number of microwaves has increased by 1,457,000 and tumble dryers by 2,148,000 .

Despite the increasing risk to homes, many UK adults do not have adequate protection from electrical fires; less than half (49%) have a Residual Current Device (RCD) in their fusebox, a vital safety device which minimises the risk of fire by cutting off the power in the event of a fault. However, almost four out of five (79%) believe that their homes are electrically safe.
Simple steps to safety .

To help the public test their own knowledge and become more aware of fire safety blunders, the ESC has created a Fire Blunders game, hosted on Facebook, which helps identify mistakes and improve safety. People can also download the free ‘Home Electrical Safety Check’ Smartphone app, a simple tool to check homes for electrical danger, or visit the ESC’s dedicated webpage esc.org.uk/homesafety, which contains top tips for avoiding simple blunders.

Phil Buckle, Director General of the Electrical Safety Council said:
“People think that they are behaving safely but the majority of people we surveyed had put themselves at risk by unknowingly making a safety blunder. Fires caused by misuse of appliances – the vast majority of which are electrical - are so easy to prevent but they will keep increasing unless people understand the simple things that can and do cause fires.

“Today we are issuing a warning to consumers: make sure you’re informed about electrical safety to avoid the increasing risk of injury or death by electrical fire. Most accidents are preventable and the ESC is here to help you. Protect yourself, your home and your family by following our simple tips, installing RCD protection in your fuse box or testing your current knowledge in our Facebook blunder quiz.”

Vij Randeniya, President of the Chief Fire Officers Association said:
“We support the ESC’s campaign and the partnership with local Fire and Rescue Services around the country. A house fire can have devastating and long term effects, not only losing belongings, memories and possibly lives, but also in terms of mental scars and trauma. Thankfully, many fires can be prevented by taking a few simple safety steps, but the ESC’s research has exposed a shocking lack of public awareness in this area.” 

For more information please contact Penny Walshe on 020 3463 5125 or at penny.walshe@electricalsafeteyfirst.org.uk