More than half of accidental house fires in Wales are caused by electricity. This report finds that older people in Wales are disproportionately at risk of an electrical fire in their homes. The number of people aged 80 or more is expected to double by 2035 with an estimated 50,000 people aged 65+ living with dementia, which presents its own challenges when it comes to electrical safety. There is a clear need for action to be taken to make sure that this ageing population is able to live in homes that are electrically safe.
The majority of older people in Wales – about 80% – own their own homes, most of which will be older housing stock that has never have had an electrical safety check. Older people are likely to use older electrical appliances and rely on electric heaters and blankets, particularly in the winter, without having any fire safety equipment at home.
Many older people understandably want to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible, but this puts the responsibility on individuals to ensure that their homes are safe. Concerns about the cost of repairs and a lack of awareness of the risks can lead to owner-occupiers living in homes with major safety hazards.
The report finds that:
- Older people are significantly affected by domestic fires, representing around a third of all dwelling fire casualties.
- 50,000 people aged 65+ will be living with dementia in Wales by 2025, putting extra challenges on home electrical safety.
- People aged over 80 were at least four times more likely than any other age group to be a casualty in an electrical fire.
- Fatalities caused by an electrical fuel source are significantly higher amongst people aged over 80 than other age groups.
Electrical Safety First recommends that:
- The Welsh Government must consider funding a scheme to provide free five-yearly home electricalsafety checks for people aged over 80, regardless of the tenure of their property.
- Local authorities must work with care providers to carry out additional home visits to the over 80s in order to identify risks and prevent electrical fires and accidents, enabling them to live independently in their homes
- Current initiatives undertaken by fire and rescue services for free home fire safety checks in Wales must be expanded with a focus on potential electrical hazards, not just smoke alarms.
- Regulations for five-yearly electrical safety checks must be introduced in the private rented sector and social rented sector in Wales to help protect older people.
- When raising awareness of electrical safety amongst older people, it should be taken into consideration that the majority of these people will not have regular internet access, so alternative ways of reaching them must be considered.