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.
You may have read in the news recently about the current hearing into the tragic 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.
Now that I have a larger following, I want to highlight again the importance of buying a carbon monoxide alarm – and how it could save yours, and the life of your family…
How to stay safe on holiday
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 around 2.5 million Britons planning on holidaying in the UK this year, it’s more important than ever to stay safe 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.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 keep 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 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.
The Katie Haines Memorial Trust continues to educate the public about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisioning – and have even set up an e-petition www.no-to-co.co.uk to the government calling for legislation that carbon monoxide alarms are fitted when all carbon burning appliances are installed, which is now mandatory in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Avril admits that she never even thought about carbon monoxide when Katie was a young girl.
‘Katie really love summertime – all she wanted to do was be out playing tennis, swimming or even just sunbathing. As a child she used to love going camping with The Guides, which came in handy when we went on camping holidays as she was the only one who could work out where all the tent poles went! But I never thought about carbon monoxide during those years. But knowing now, through Katie’s death, what can happen, I would advise everyone to take an alarm with you – even if you’re staying at a friend’s house.’
Avril and the Trust are doing fantastic work in raising awareness and want to make sure that other people don’t have to suffer the pain they’ve had to endure. To find out more about Katie and the Trust, or to sign the e-petition, please visit katiehainestrust.com.
Happy holidays to you all, and stay safe!
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