Thursday 5 January 2012

Elderly ignore free gas safety checks as winter starts to bite

£134 million worth of potentially life-saving gas safety checksoffered free by the energy suppliers go unclaimed every year, as astaggering number of people are killed by the effects of cold everywinter, according to research carried out for Gas Safe Register,which found that 88% of elderly homeowners have never claimed afree gas safety check.As the winter weather begins to bite and puts increased pressureon our central heating systems, latest official ONS statistics showthat 25,700 died from cold-related illnesses last year. Among theseare the nine elderly people, who died every hour from cold-relatedillnesses.
Gas Safe Register is urging people, particularly the elderly, tomake sure they take advantage of free gas safety checks if they areeligible and ensure they have well-maintained and safe gasappliances. When a gas boiler, gas fire or heater fails, theaverage home can quickly drop to 16°C, the temperature at whichhypothermia can set in. While younger people feel cold, it’s farmore serious for the elderly, whose temperature falls far fasterand to dangerous levels when their home temperature falls below16°C. That’s why the energy companies offer free checks to the mostvulnerable.
The UK has the highest winter death rate in Northern Europe, soGas Safe Register is warning people to make sure their home gasappliances will see them and their loved ones safely through thewinter. ONS data shows that the cold can cause or exacerbateillnesses such as high blood pressure, thrombosis or respiratoryinfections, as it weakens the immune system.
Paul Johnston, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register says,

“We’re urging everyone to take whatever support theycan to keep safe and warm this winter. Having your gas applianceschecked annually is vital to ensure that they are running safely.If you don’t get your appliances checked every year, you arerisking gas leaks, fires, explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning.Although all appliances need to be checked every year, it’s veryimportant for elderly people, as appliances in their homes tend tobe older and not as reliable.”

Top 5 ways of staying warm safely:

  1. Get your gas appliances safety checked once a year to make surethey work safely and don’t break down in the cold.
  2. If you are having your gas appliances checked, always use a GasSafe registered engineer – it’s the law and will help keep yousafe.
  3. Always use gas appliances responsibly. Never use a gas cookerto heat a room or a house.
  4. Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas produced by badly maintainedgas appliances. Look out for danger signs - sooty stains on oraround appliances, floppy yellow flames (instead of crisp blueones) and excessive condensation in a room are all signs that yourgas appliances could be producing carbon monoxide.
  5. If you are over the age of 60 you may be entitled to a free gassafety check. Go to find out more or ask your energy supplier.

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