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Senior citizens at greatest risk of home electrical fires

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Nationally 11 accidental electrical fires a day affect people aged 65 and over, and Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) is asking people to check on older neighbours and friends, during Electrical Fire Safety Week.

Last year in England, 3,849 accidental electrical fires were reported in the homes of people aged 65 and over, the equivalent of 11 a day and accounting for a quarter of all accidental electrical fires reported in dwellings in England during 2017/18. And 81% of these fires happened in homes where the occupant lived alone.

The kitchen is the most hazardous room in the home for older people, with 81% of accidental electrical fires starting there. Nearly three quarters of these were due to the misuse of appliances.

Electrical accidents in the home can pose a more significant risk to older and more vulnerable people. This is often due to old or poor quality housing that contains faulty electrics and appliances.

HWFRS has highlighted some simple visual checks that relatives and neighbours can carry out and help to keep their older friends safe:

  • watch out for overloaded plug sockets – many people use four-way bar adaptors to allow them to plug more appliances in, particularly in older properties that do not have as many sockets. However, just because there is space to plug in four appliances, it does not mean that it is safe to do so. Visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/overloadingsockets to check
  • do not store flammable 'clutter' near the electrical intake or on top of microwaves
  • make sure that any portable heaters are being used safely. They should not be used to dry or heat clothes and should not be left switched on and unattended. Also watch out for trailing cables that can cause a trip hazard
  • check that electric blankets are in good condition and that manufacturers' instructions are followed. If a blanket is more than ten years old, consider buying a new one from a retailer that you trust
  • make sure that electrical products have not been subject to a recall or safety notice. You can carry out a simple search using Electrical Safety First's online product checker, which can be found at www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/recall

Station Commander Steve Andrews of the HWFRS Community Risk team said: "A high number of accidental fires in the homes of older people are caused by the misuse of electrical products, with the kitchen the most dangerous room in the house. Make sure that the older people living near you have working smoke alarms and check that the appliances they are using are in good working order.

"By taking the time to carry out a few simple checks on behalf of your older friends, you can give them the peace of mind that they can continue to live independently and safely in their own homes."

To arrange a Home Fire Safety Check, contact the HWFRS Community Risk team on 0800 032 1155.

For more advice on electrical safety for older people, visit: https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/guides-and-advice/for-older-people/

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Editor notes

Unless otherwise stated, all data is from Home Office Fire Statistics on incidents attended by Fire and Rescue Services. Figures from financial year 2017/18 are accessible at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/fire-statistics-data-tables#incident-level-datasets