Taking a proactive approach to Carbon Monoxide prevention throughout 2022
Latest research conducted with UK heating engineers identified a significant increase in the number of dangerous appliances across the nation being installed or poorly maintained due to the repercussions of Covid-19, with many individuals delaying crucial annual servicing.
Here Steve Boggis, Trade Business Unit Director for FireAngel, discusses with Craig Drinkald, National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) lead officer for Carbon Monoxide (CO) , how every area of the industry can work together to ensure the highest standards of protection.
Steve Boggis: NFCC recognise that although many organisations collect information relevant to CO safety, there is an incomplete picture of CO risk, exposure and response in the UK. How is NFCC working with Fire and Rescue Services across the UK to change this?
Craig Drinkald: Current legislation doesn’t mandate Fire and Rescue Services to manage CO safety. However, we want and feel we have a responsibility to provide, where possible, a supportive role as part of our remit and commitment to prevent harm to people in homes and workplaces.
This includes proactively working with Fire and Rescue Services to support them if they can install CO alarms, where required as part of home safety visits. This also includes ensuring staff are able to educate individuals on the potential dangers and how they can stay protected.
We are concerned there may be an under-reporting with regard to the number of people killed and seriously injured by CO poisoning each year, which is why we are working in partnership with industry bodies including the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group, Gas Safety Register and CO Research Trust to help improve the data around CO incidents.
We are working to identify if and how we can collect and analyse the necessary data we require to gain a real understanding of how many people across the UK are being impacted by CO poisoning and the measures that need to be implemented to successfully protect them.
Steve Boggis: The government recently announced future amendments to the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 and Approved Document J. What was the NFCC’s response to this and what further changes to legislation would the NFCC want to see, to help achieve consistency across the UK for the fitting of detection?
NFCC recently welcomed the announcement on 23rd November to future changes to the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. These include the requirement for CO detection in social and private rented properties with fixed appliances.
Future changes to Approved Document J will also require CO alarms to be fitted when new appliances such as gas boilers or fires are installed in any home – this includes owner occupied. NFCC responded to the Domestic Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms: Proposals to extend regulations, setting out our position and this is an area we had campaigned for over a number of years.
It is vital we achieve consistency of CO prevention across the entire UK and upgrading legislation is the only way we can truly achieve this. However, it is our combined responsibility, including Fire and Rescue Services, fuel appliance manufacturers, professional installers and CO detection manufacturers, to ensure we are doing everything we possibly can to improve the standard of CO safety throughout British homes.
Steve Boggis: Ensuring people have adequate alarms that meet their specific requirements is crucial. For the most vulnerable groups in society, what actions should be taken to ensure each individual’s needs are successfully met?
Craig Drinkald: NFCC’s person centred approach to prevention supports Fire and Rescue Services in identifying the potential vulnerabilities of every individual. Working in collaboration with partners, such as Adult Social Care services, Fire Services can support people to get the levels of support, advice and protection they need to ensure they are safe in their homes.
Unlike a fire, which creates its own warning factors, such as an increase in heat and the creation of smoke, CO is completely invisible. It cannot be seen, tasted or smelt, so individuals have no way of knowing if they are at risk of CO poisoning, unless they have a working CO detector.
Individuals such as those living with disabilities or people with socio – economic difficulties, can often be placed at greater risk. A prime example of this is the current increase in energy prices further accelerating fuel poverty throughout the UK, with many families having to choose between eating or heating their homes.
This, combined with latest research identifying many appliances may not have been serviced throughout the pandemic, is placing individuals at real potential risk of CO. That is why it is so important that every aspect of the industry works together to undertake a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to CO that adequately informs all individuals, particularly those most vulnerable, on the potential dangers, whilst actively encouraging the installation of CO alarms.
For professional installers who are fitting, maintaining and servicing appliances, sharing information and advice on the potential sources of CO, the symptoms it creates and the correct places to install a CO alarm to ensure proper detection are extremely important to achieve the highest standard of protection for all individuals.
Steve Boggis: How important do you think interlinked systems are to provide the highest standards of CO and fire protection for all domestic property types and should the rest of the UK be following the guidance of the updated Scottish Tolerable Standard?
Many fuel burning appliances, such as boilers, are located in garages or utility rooms that may be quite a distance from frequently occupied rooms, such as bedrooms or living rooms. The ability for interlinked alarms to achieve the earliest possible warning of a potential CO event, as all devices sound at the same time, is providing a completely revolutionary approach to both CO and fire protection. NFCC encourage people to consider the use of interlinked alarms in the home.
However, whilst detection is the first part of protection, information is the second. There have been really exciting developments in detection technology. Some products can facilitate remote monitoring direct access to essential data regarding the potential risk level throughout a property
From an accident reduction perspective, working with partners to provide such data can enable Fire Services to apply resources in the most appropriate way. as Effectively analysing this information to understand the potential level of risk and apply the necessary measures to adequately respond. So this is an area which we have an interest in.
Steve Boggis: Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the sector throughout 2020 and 2021, with this latest research highlighting the dangers of not gaining physical access to properties to conduct essential servicing and maintenance. Can you please share your thoughts on how the industry has adapted to the challenges of the pandemic and how this will shape CO and fire safety measures in the future?
Craig Drinkald: Throughout 2020 and 2021, the Fire and Rescue Services had a responsibility to not only protect their own workforce but to ensure the safety of their communities.
NFCC provided support and guidance to help fire services continue to provide support and advice. As with other sectors fire did have to adapt to new ways of working and engaging with communities.
To achieve this, different techniques were implemented, including telephone and virtual home safety checks. Many individuals may not have realised they were at risk and made assumptions, simply because they don’t realise the potential risks within their home. For example, an appliance such as a boiler may be heating water, but this doesn’t mean it is working as it should and could be emitting CO as a result.
As a result of the pandemic NFCC recently made available an Online Home Fire Safety check tool which Fire and Rescue Services can in England implement for their communities, if they don’t already have this provision. Underpinned by the person centred framework this allows people and partners to undertake a virtual Home Safety Check providing tailored advice to individuals but also identifying the most vulnerable who may then need a home visit. This also frees up resources for community work to identify and help higher risk people.
The NFCC is the professional voice of the UK fire and rescue service. NFCC drives improvement and development throughout the UK FRS, while supporting strong leadership – including for the devolved administrations. NFCC delivers an approach where everyone works together and offers up sector-led solutions. To find out more visit www.nationalfirechiefs.org.uk.
For more information on FireAngel’s comprehensive portfolio of CO safety solutions and how they wirelessly interlink with FireAngel Specification, please visit www.fireangel.co.uk/connect or contact your local specification manager.