Carbon monoxide warning follows Ballycastle incident

NORTHERN Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) along with the Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) are warning people of the dangers of carbon monoxide and are calling on everyone to take responsibility by acting now, to stay safe from this ‘silent killer’.

The warning follows a potentially fatal carbon monoxide incident in Ballycastle, Co Antrim on December 3 that could have resulted in a more serious outcome for a 27-year-old female who was found unconscious in the living room by her friends.

Firefighters found fatally high levels of carbon monoxide in the house and adjoining property. A plastic bag was removed by firefighters from the chimney flue of the woman’s house, which appeared to have blocked the flue causing high levels of carbon monoxide to build up. Firefighters ventilated both properties and administered oxygen therapy to the woman before she was taken to hospital via ambulance.

Kevin O’Neill, Group Commander, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, said: “There is no doubt that this lady had a lucky escape from the ‘silent killer’ we know as carbon monoxide. This incident serves to remind us all how easily levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in our homes.

“In the last 12 months we have attended 121 incidents where carbon monoxide was detected. With winter underway and heating systems and solid fuel fires being used more, we want to remind homeowners to make sure their chimneys and flues are cleaned at least once a year, and that appliances such as heaters, boilers and cookers are serviced annually by a registered engineer. This will help minimise the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and the chances of having a chimney fire will also be greatly reduced.

“I also want to encourage people to be mindful about what they are putting on their home fires – general rubbish should be disposed off correctly rather than burning it on your open fire.

“We all have a responsibility to take all the necessary precautions to help protect ourselves and our families from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Bryan Monson, Deputy Chief Executive of HSENI, said: “Our ‘Watch Out’ campaign is designed to remind people to be vigilant and alert them to the dangers of carbon monoxide.

“What makes this ‘silent killer’ so dangerous is that the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning can feel like other common illnesses, such as viral infections, flu or simple tiredness.

“HSENI recommends the installation of audible carbon monoxide alarms in all homes to warn of the dangers if this poisonous gas escapes. They can provide additional warning and potentially life-saving protection from carbon monoxide poisoning.

“However, alarms must never be regarded as a substitute for the proper installation and regular servicing of fuel burning appliances that use gas, coal, oil or any other solid fuel. I’d like to remind the public that the best defence against carbon monoxide poisoning is to ensure that appliances such as heaters, boilers and cookers, are serviced annually by a registered engineer. Only use Gas Safe registered engineers to fit, fix and service your gas appliances.”

More information on carbon monoxide can be found at: http://www.hseni.gov.uk/watchout

For free safety advice call 0800 0320 121 or visit: http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/carbonmonoxide

Following the incident at Leyland Court, Ballycastle SDLP councillor, Dónal Cunningham. is urging the local community to be ‘carbon monoxide safe’ this winter.

He said: “As the evenings draw in, and colder weather approaches, families across our community switch on their central heating, or light open fires. I would strongly encourage people to take appropriate steps to ensure their homes are properly protected against the threat of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

“I am calling upon all householders to have their boiler serviced by a certified technician every 12 months and to install an audible carbon monoxide alarm in their homes to ensure that families are protected from potential leaks of the lethal gas.

“The colourless, odourless gas – often dubbed the ‘Silent Killer’ – can kill quickly if inhaled in high concentrations. The symptoms of poisoning are similar to flu or food poisoning, and include headaches, nausea and dizziness.

“It is absolutely vital that people understand the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and, most importantly, how we can all protect our homes and families from the threat.”