Derry Girls star fronts campaign to stop fires caused by block adaptors

10 March 2020

Siobhan McSweeney, who plays Sister Michael in the Channel 4 comedy, suffered a devastating fire at her London flat – and tells her story in an interview with Electrical Safety First.

The actress who plays Sister Michael in hit Channel 4 comedy ‘Derry Girls’ warns of the potential dangers of a product which 3 in 5 of us have in our homes.

Siobhan McSweeney, who also recently appeared in a Great British Bake Off special, was the victim of an electrical fire in November which totally gutted her London flat. The blaze destroyed the Irish actress’s possessions and left her without a home for the subsequent three months. Luckily, no one was hurt.

According to the fire service, the source of the fire was a cube-shaped block adaptor, which they concluded had fallen slightly out of its socket. The consumer protection Charity, Electrical Safety First, recommends avoiding the use of block adaptors where possible as they can put undue strain on the wall socket and some don’t come with a fuse, which may increase the risk of overloading and fire.

New research conducted by the Charity reveals that 3 in 5 Brits have a block adaptor in their home. That figure rises to 72 per cent for those aged over 55. Furthermore, 44 per cent of us aren’t aware that multi-way ‘bar’ adapters are the safer option – and almost 1 in 7 mistakenly believe that block adaptors are preferable.[1]

Electrical Safety First recommends using bar adaptors as an alternative if needed, as they put less strain on the wall socket. These must also be used with care and not overloaded. The Charity has a socket calculator on its website which can be used to make sure you’re not overloading.

Siobhan McSweeney commented: “The fire was a really horrible ordeal. I’d been out at the theatre one evening when I got a call telling me there was smoke coming out of my flat. Panicking, I got in a cab and came home to find a fire engine already there, with the flat completely burnt out and many of my possessions destroyed. I was terrified that something could have happened to my neighbours so I was incredibly thankful to find out that they were fine – but it all could have been so much worse. I’ve been living out of a suitcase at my friend’s place since the fire which is never convenient, but my overwhelming emotion is gratitude that no one was hurt.

The London Fire Brigade, who were so fantastic on the day, told me that a block adaptor I’d been using to plug things in was to blame. That’s why I was so keen to work with Electrical Safety First who try to prevent these sort of accidents happening and help raise awareness of the risks.

If you need extra sockets, it’s always better to use a multi-way ‘bar’ adaptor, and even these should be used with care and not overloaded. If you’re not sure, go to to use their socket overload calculator and have a read up on a few of their other electrical safety tips while you’re there. They really can save lives.”

Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First, commented: “Siobhan’s story is very frightening and I would like to thank her for sharing it. When the use of an multi-way socket adaptor is unavoidable, use a bar type extension lead rather than a block adaptor, as this will put less strain on the wall socket, and use our socket calculator to make sure you’re not overloading. Almost 20 fires a day were attributed to the misuse of electrical equipment and appliances in Great Britain last year[2] and we hope people will take on board the importance of caution wherever electricity is involved.”

Editors’ Notes:

  • 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
  • Consumer research was undertaken from 17 to 19 February 2020 by Censuswide with a sample of 2,007 adults across the United Kingdom. The figures are representative of all UK adults.


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[1] Consumer research commissioned by Electrical Safety First and conducted by Censuswide surveying 2,000 people in the UK nationally representative of the population, found that 59.9% of those surveyed responded ‘Bar adaptor’ to the question ‘Which of these do you have in your home? (tick all that apply)’ and 71.5% of those surveyed over 55 gave this response; 43.9% answered ‘I don’t believe one is safer than the other’ or ‘block adaptor’ to the question ‘Which out of a bar adaptor or block adaptor do you believe to be safest?’ and 13.7% answered ‘block adaptor’ to the same question (images were used to demonstrate the style of adaptor involved)

[2] Based on analysis of all accidental electrical appliance fires in dwellings 2018/19 in which the cause was listed as misuse of (or ‘negligent use of’) appliances or equipment from the Home Office Fire Statistics Data, Stats Wales, and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.