I wrote this post last year, wanting to highlight the efforts of The Katie Haines Memorial Trust, after my school friend, Katie, was tragically killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. Unfortunately, hers is not an isolated incident and worryingly, with different laws abroad, there have also been cases where lives have been lost on holidays, including the deaths of two young children, Christianne Shepherd, seven, and her brother, Robert, six, who were killed while on holiday in Corfu back in 2006, due to a faulty boiler in their Thomas Cook villa.
For the children’s parents and family, I can’t even imagine the pain they are going through having to re-live the horror of that terrible day. But their story has reinforced the fact that more people need to know about the dangers of C0 poisoning and how it can easily be detected.
I want to highlight the importance of buying a carbon monoxide alarm – and how it could save yours, and the life of your family not only in your own home but when you go travelling, too…
Safe Travels: How To Protect Your Family
From self-catering villas and apartments abroad; to camping trips in a good old-fashioned tent; to caravans and boats; and stays in quaint holiday cottages and B&Bs, there will be the usual headiness of excitement from the packing, to the arrival, to the trip itself and all the fun things you’re going to experience as a family together.
One thing that isn’t guaranteed, however, is that the type of accommodation you’ve chosen to stay in is safe.
If you ask anyone, they will all tell you they have smoke alarms fitted in their homes, but mention a carbon monoxide alarm, and you’ll be met with a blank face. Why? Because having a carbon monoxide alarm isn’t mandatory by law.
I have a carbon monoxide alarm in my home and have done for four years – four years since it took the life of my school friend Katie Haines. Her sudden death was caused by a faulty boiler in the home she shared with her new husband, Richard. Katie was only 31, but since this terrible tragedy Richard and Katie’s parents, Gordon and Avril Samuel, have tirelessly campaigned to promote awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide through The Katie Haines Memorial Trust.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen to anyone. It hits without warning; you can’t see it; you can’t smell it; and the poisonous fumes are released with the incomplete burning of gas, oil, coal and wood.
And, while it’s important to be vigilant in your own home, with over 2.5 million Britons planning on holidaying in the UK this year, it’s more important than ever to have safe travels and know the potential risks for when you are staying in rented accommodation; and the dangers of using a BBQ in unventilated spaces if you’re outdoors camping.
Keeping safe on holiday
Around 40 people in the last two years have been killed or seriously injured by carbon monoxide whilst staying in a tent, caravan, holiday cottage or boat in the UK. But many of these could have been prevented. Here is the Gas Safe Register’s guide to keeping safe whilst on holiday:
•Never use a smouldering or lit barbeque (charcoal or gas), gas stove, light or heater in a tent, caravan, room or cabin, or under an awning unless it is a permanent fixture that has been installed and maintained correctly. Even if you have finished cooking, your barbeque will still give off fumes for some hours after use.
•Remember the six main signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and don’t confuse it with food poisoning or another holiday-related illness – headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness.
•If using a gas appliance, check that it is in good order, undamaged and, where present, that hoses are properly attached and undamaged. If in doubt contact the owner to get the hoses replaced or do not use it. If you are unable to contact the responsible person and have to change the cylinder yourself, make sure the gas taps or cylinder valve are turned off before changing the gas cylinder and only do this in the open air. Do not over-tighten joints.
•If you are staying in rented accommodation or self-catering where there are gas appliances, check there is a current gas safety check record displayed. If you cannot see one, ask the owner if the gas appliances in your accommodation have been safety checked and serviced within the last 12 months. In the UK, the owner must do this by law.
•Recognise the signs of dodgy gas appliances. Black marks or stains around the appliance, yellow lazy flames instead of crisp blue flames, and too much condensation are all signs gas appliances aren’t working properly.
•Buy a carbon monoxide alarm from a hardware store and take it with you whether you’re abroad or in the UK. They’re not expensive and retail around £12-£20.
Happy holidays to you all, and stay safe!