Huge numbers of electrical fires are tearing through the homes of older people every day in the community, new research has revealed – and those who live alone are at greater risk.
Analysis on fires in Great Britain by Electrical Safety First has unearthed that a shocking 12 accidental electrical fires occur every single day in the homes of older people living alone.
The consumer protection Charity, launching its campaign to protect older people as part of Electrical Fire Safety Week, discovered that last year a shocking 4,426 electrical fires occurred in the homes of those over a pensionable age who lived by themselves. This figure accounted for 22% of all accidental electrical fires that took place last year, which is severely disproportionate to the 7% of the overall population made up by those over 65s who live alone.
The Charity also surveyed Brits around the country over the age of 65, investigating how vulnerable those living alone feel to an electrical fire. Results showed that 1 in 4 felt they would be less at risk of experiencing an electrical fire if they were living with someone else.
The dangers these fires pose are shockingly prevalent, with older people living alone in Scotland accounting for 30% of all accidental electrical fires that occurred there last year, the equivalent of three every single day.
In England, older people living alone experienced 2,282 more electrical fires than the same age group that live with someone else. Older people living alone in Wales, meanwhile, experienced nearly three times more fires than those co-habiting.
Isolation has also been found to be a heart-breaking issue for many older people living alone. On average the Charity discovered many of these respondents go, 3 months without seeing a family member, friend or neighbour who they may rely on to check their electrics.
With nearly half of respondents surveyed who live alone admitting they do not know the warning signs something could be seriously wrong with their electrics the Charity is urging Brits to check in on their older relatives, friends and neighbours to perform some basic spot checks that could save a life.
Local North Cornwall hero, Dan Climo, knows first-hand the need to check in on older people in the community who may be living alone as he risked his own life to save his 87-year-old neighbour Brian during a dangerous electrical fire that consumed his house:
“I was in my turkey field at the time when I smelt burning coming from Brian’s bungalow, and looked over to see thick black smoke billowing up from his bedroom window. I knew I had to act quickly as I was sure he was inside. I desperately rushed over to the burning building, jumped over his wall and ran inside. I discovered Brian lying unconscious half way out of his bedroom, he had clearly tried to escape but was overcome by the amount of smoke in his room. His hands were badly burnt too.
I pulled him out to safety and was so relieved to see that, although he had inhaled a lot of smoke and passed out, he was ok in the end. If I hadn’t have got to him as quickly as I did I’m not sure Brian would have lasted much longer. Things could have turned out very differently.
I was really shocked by the whole thing, you don’t expect something like this to happen on your doorstep and I’m just glad that Brian was ok. It was an electric blanket that caused the fire and there wasn’t a fire alarm in the building so it was just lucky that I was around at the time. It serves as a real reminder to check up on older people who live alone, check that their appliances aren’t dangerous or looking a little worse for wear and that they have an alarm fitted which could save their life.”
Emma Drackford, Director of Communications at Electrical Safety First commented:
“We are urging Brits to check in on their older neighbour who maybe living alone in the community. With our findings revealing the shocking number of electrical fires affecting this demographic we can all do our part to tackle this issue. Checking in on your older neighbour, friend or relative won’t only go a long way in loneliness, but could save a life.
As part of this year’s Electrical Safety Week, Electrical Safety First is suggesting that anyone who knows an older person living alone checks up on them and, as well as having a cup of tea and a chat, has a look around their home to ensure there isn’t anything amiss with their appliances that could cause them harm. You may discover something that prevents a serious incident from occurring and with your help, we can change things for the better.”
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- Electrical Safety First is a UK Charity dedicated to reducing and preventing damage, injuries and death caused by electricity. More information can be found at electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/olderpeople
- All consumer research, unless otherwise stated, was undertaken from 09 to 13 November 2018 by Censuswide with a sample of 1,000 adults across Great Britain over the age of 65 with a 50/50 split of those living alone and those cohabiting. The figures are representative of all UK adults.
 Based on analysis of all accidental electrical fires in dwellings 2016/17, from the Home Office Fire Statistics Data, Scotland Fire & Rescue Service and Stats Wales, that occurred in a residence whereby the occupant lived alone and was over a pensionable age.
Collectively 19,700 accidental electrical fires occurred in dwellings 2016/17. 4,426 of these occurred in the homes of older people living alone.
 Based on ONS (2017). Families and Households: 2017, excluding population figures of those over 65 living alone in NI.
 Consumer research commissioned by Electrical Safety First surveying 1,000 people over the age of 65 in Great Britain. Of those surveyed 27.8% of over 65s that live alone said they would feel less at risk of an electrical fire occurring in their home if they were to live with someone else.
 Based on Scottish Fire and Rescue Service data of all accidental dwelling fires whereby the ignition was deemed electrical of which 3,573 occurred. Of these 1,085 directly affected a person over a pensionable age living alone.
 Home Office Fire Dataset 2016/17 figures whereby 3,922 accidental electrical fires occurred in the homes of those over a pensionable age. Of these 3102 occurred in the home of someone over a pensionable age that lived alone and not with someone else.
 Stats Wales figures, 239 accidental electrical fires occurred in the homes of those over a pensionable age whereby the occupant lived alone compared to just 72 of the same age group who lived with someone else.
 Consumer research commissioned by Electrical Safety First whereby those over the age of 65 that rely solely on a friend, family member, neighbour or carer to check their electrics go on average, 12.9 weeks without seeing that person.
 Consumer research commissioned by Electrical Safety First whereby from 1,000 people over the age of 65, 48.8% said they do not know the warning signs that something could be seriously wrong with the electrics in their home.