Stay switched on this month and take care with your electrics

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) is urging residents to be cautious when buying electrical goods online, particularly in the run up to Christmas when more people will be buying smart technology as gifts. 

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Research by the charity, Electrical Safety First, found that 33 percent of people who have purchased smart technology, such as phones and tablets, have bought it from an online marketplace, where sites often trade electrical goods with faulty parts which pose a severe risk of electric shock or fire.

Gail Muirhead, West Hub Prevention Manager, said: “In 2018/19, electrical fires made up approximately 53 percent of all accidental dwelling fires in England*, so we want to raise awareness of the fire risks caused by counterfeit products that are easily available to purchase online. 

“Buying electrical products online can be risky as they could contain faulty parts that overheat and catch fire or deliver a fatal electric shock. However, fires that arise from electrical objects, though common, are often avoidable.

“While many items appear sophisticated on the outside, they could lack essential safety components inside, so please remain vigilant buying and using electrics. Always buy from a retailer you trust and use your electrics safely, for example not overloading sockets.”

If you plan to buy electrical items online, make sure you follow these tips:

  • Buy from a retailer that you know and trust, either direct 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.
  • Make sure any electrical appliances you buy have a British or European safety mark and are used in line with the manufacturer’s guidance.
  • If you suspect you have purchased a fake product, stop using it immediately and report it to your local Trading Standards.
  • Electrical Safety First have launched a Chrome Extension ‘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 which are subject to product recall, do not use them. To find out if you have a product which 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/