Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) is issuing some important electrical safety advice to help its residents reduce the risk of a fire in the home, especially in the run-up to the festive season.
Residents are urged to be vigilant when shopping online as the festive season approaches and shoppers prepare to buy electrical items as gifts. Research by the charity, Electrical Safety First, found that 64 percent of those who bought fake electrical products purchased them online, including devices such as phones and tablets. Furthermore, 29 percent of those who bought counterfeit products bought them on a ‘marketplace’, sites that often trade electrical goods with faulty parts, posing a severe risk of electric shock or fire.
Electrical Safety First also found that approximately 53 percent of all accidental domestic fires in England had an electrical origin in 2018/19. However, electrical safety fires are avoidable with the right precautions.
Mark Jones, Watch Based Station Manager, said: “In 2018/19, electrical fires made up over 50 percent of accidental dwelling fires in England*, so we want to raise awareness of the fire risks caused by counterfeit products, as well as provide some general advice to residents to help them to prevent electrical fires from breaking out.
“While many items advertised online may appear sophisticated on the outside, they could lack essential safety components inside, making them dangerous and at risk of causing a fire or explosion.
“There are some simple measures that residents can take to reduce the risk of electrical fires. This includes shopping cautiously and from retailers you trust as well as not overloading sockets and unplugging them when they are no longer being used.”
If you do plan to buy electrical items online, make sure you follow these tips:
- Buy from a retailer that you know and trust, either directly from the manufacturer’s website or a trusted High Street name – that way if something goes wrong, you can return the product for repair or a refund.
- Look out for the United Kingdom Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark. This replaces CE marking in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) for most electrical products. By applying the UKCA mark to a product, the manufacturer is stating that it meets UK safety regulations.
- If you suspect you have purchased a fake product, stop using it immediately and report it to your local Trading Standards.
- Electrical Safety First has a Chrome Extension called ‘Check It Out’, compatible with Amazon and eBay, which will remind you when you are not buying directly from the manufacturer or a retailer you know and trust to make it easier for people to stay safe when shopping online.
To prevent electrical fires, follow this advice:
- Don’t overload sockets – keep to one per socket.
- Unplug electrical appliances and chargers when you’re not using them and when you go out or go to bed.
- Never leave mobile phones and other appliances 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.
- Look out for signs of dangerous or loose wiring e.g. scorch marks, hot plugs and sockets, flickering lights, fuses that blow or circuit breakers that trip for no obvious reason.
- Keep appliances clean and in good working order e.g. regularly remove lint from tumble dryer filter.
- Ensure the area around the electrical intake/under-stair cupboard is kept free from clutter.
- If you own appliances that are subject to a product recall, do not use them. To find out if you have a product that is subject to recall, visit the Electrical Safety First website.
If a fire does start in your home, always get out, stay out and call 999 immediately.
For more information about electrical safety, visit our Electrical Safety page.
Note to editors:
*Electrical Safety First: https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/what-we-do/facts-and-figures/