Housing Specification Blog

Stay safe from the silent killer

October 8, 2013 PaulGroves Housing IssuesInnovations

As the installation of carbon monoxide alarms becomes compulsory in Scotland when a new fuel-burning appliance is fitted, Manchester school teacher Lucy Chant – a trustee of The Katie Haines Memorial Trust – whose close friend Katie died tragically in 2010 as a result of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, explains why regular awareness campaigns are so important in ensuring people understand the dangers, symptoms and ways to protect themselves from this silent killer.

This year’s Gas Safety Week and the Carbon Monoxide – be Alarmed! Campaign have revealed some frightening new statistics on the number of people who are living with unsafe heating appliances.

We service our cars, but when it comes to potentially the most dangerous appliances in our homes, it is staggering to see how many are left unchecked, putting occupants at risk of both fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.

I know only too well what the devastating consequences of carbon monoxide can be. My lovely friend Katie Haines may still be here if she had known the dangers. Katie was 31, newly married and the happiest I had ever seen her. One evening in February, 2010, Katie got home from work, fed the cat and ran a bath. She got into the tub for her soak, but didn’t get out again. My kind, fun-loving friend had succumbed to the silent killer, carbon monoxide, after fumes had leaked from a malfunctioning boiler.

It is thought the invisible and odourless gas would have made her drowsy and, as she  tried to stand up, she may have fallen and hit her head on the bath, before eventually drowning in the water.

As a result of her tragic death, Katie’s parents and husband set up the Katie Haines  Memorial Trust in an attempt to educate and raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. I have since become a trustee of the charity.

As a teacher, I’m lucky to be able to educate my pupils to ensure they and their families understand the dangers and how to stay safe. Events such as Gas Safety Week and the Carbon Monoxide be-Alarmed! Campaign also do a great job in raising awareness. By sharing personal experiences and startling facts, people will hopefully take notice and take action.

I was lucky. I was woken by my carbon monoxide alarm sounding. It indicated high levels of the gas coming from the boiler. If we hadn’t had the alarm, we could have been dead within three hours. The boiler was subsequently condemned.

With increasingly severe cold weather and rising heating costs, some are taking dangerous measures such as blocking flues and chimneys to keep heat in. However, in doing so, any leaking carbon monoxide can become trapped inside.

In March this year, we were delighted to team up with the Warm Homes, Healthy People Project (WHHP) in Trafford and Sprue Safety Products to donate 50 FireAngel carbon monoxide alarms to vulnerable Trafford residents who may be in poor health and at risk of living in cold housing. This donation is an important part of the Trust’s drive to ensure everyone understands carbon monoxide and takes preventative measures to make sure they do not fall victim to it. As a result, more people in Manchester will now be protected.

(Photo courtesy of the Manchester Evening News)

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