Residents reminded to be aware of electrical dangers

As the festive season approaches and shoppers prepare to buy electrical items as gifts for their loved ones, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) has issued advice to remind residents of the dangers posed by faulty and unofficial products and is encouraging them to take steps to reduce the risk of an electrical fire breaking out in the home. 

RBFRS’s advice supports Electrical Fire Safety Week (21-27 November), a campaign run by Electrical Safety First to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by electricity in the home. Between April 2015 and March 2016 RBFRS attended 398 accidental dwelling fires, 285 of which were attributed either to a fault in an appliance/electricity supply or careless use. 

The advice also comes ahead of National Consumer Week (28 November-2 December), which this year focuses on making consumers aware of their rights and product safety when buying electrical goods. RBFRS is committed to working in partnership with other organisations to effectively target those most at risk, and is working with West Berkshire and Wokingham Trading Standards Service and Citizens Advice to try and raise awareness of this issue.

Electrical gadgets tend to be high on people’s wish lists and consequently, counterfeiters may try to profit by selling fake copies of them. Counterfeit electrical items are unlikely to meet UK safety regulations or be compatible with an official electrical item, e.g replacement phone chargers and may contain faulty parts that can overheat and catch fire, or deliver a fatal electric shock. Electrical Safety First estimates that 1 in 5 counterfeit items are at risk of exploding due to unsafe internal components.

Once in the home electrical products should be used responsibly. They should not be left charging for long periods of time, including overnight and should not be left in an unsuitable place where they could start a fire, for example in a bed.

RBFRS is also encouraging people to register their old and new appliances to reduce the risk of fire. The Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA) “Register my appliance” website offers owners a quick and easy way to register all of the appliances they have acquired within the last twelve years. Unless registered, products are untraceable if a safety repair becomes necessary, which means that you cannot be notified directly by the manufacturer.

We recommend that you follow this advice to help you prevent an electrical fire: 

Mobile phones, laptops and tablets

  • Always buy electrical chargers from a reputable source and the correct type for the item in use - many imported chargers do not meet UK safety regulations and may not be suitable for use with your equipment /item.
  • Ensure mobile phones etc are not left charging for long periods of time and never leave them to charge overnight.
  • Never leave mobile phones etc on or under your pillow or on or under the bed covers (or soft furnishings) while you are sleeping – they could overheat and start a fire. 

General electrical safety

  • Don’t overload plug sockets – keep to one plug per socket.
  • Look out for signs of dangerous or loose wiring e.g. scorch marks, hot plugs/sockets, flickering lights, fuses that blow or circuit breakers that trip for no obvious reason.
  • Make sure any electrical appliances you buy have a British or European safety mark and are used in line with the manufacturers guidance.
  • Unplug electrical appliances when you are not using them and when you go to bed (unless they are designed to be left on e.g. freezers).
  • Keep appliances clean and in good working order e.g. regularly remove lint from tumble dryer filters, and keep ovens, grills and hobs free from grease and grime.
  • Ensure the area around the electrical intake/under-stair cupboard is kept free from clutter. 

Iain Harrison, Group Manager for Prevention said: “Our crews attend hundreds of fires every year which could have been avoided, as people often underestimate the fire risks associated with electrical items. Use electrical devices safely and responsibly by following our advice.” 

Councillor Christine Bateson, Community Safety Member Champion said: “Electrical products can be very dangerous, all the more so if they are unofficial and may not have met UK safety standards. Please ensure you buy from a reputable source and take appropriate care of these items.” 

Marcus Franks, West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Community Resilience & Partnerships said: “A recent survey carried out by the West Berkshire and Wokingham Trading Standards Service of electrical products sold in high street stores has shown generally high levels of compliance.

“However, they have also previously investigated a number of breaches, primarily of cheap imported electrical chargers sold online and these have resulted in prosecution and significant loss of stock to the seller.

“There are steps the public can take to protect themselves and their families from the dangers of untested products. Firstly, do you know who you are buying from? If it is not from a bonafide source, then there is a risk the product is an imported fake. This means it’s unlikely to have been safety tested.”

For more information on registering your appliances, please visit: http://www.registermyappliance.org.uk/