Clocking on to safety

Visits to the dentist, the yearly flu jab, a hair cut every two months, there are some things that just happen because you have developed a regular habit of doing those things at a certain time. But there are other things that are fundamental to our health and, indeed our lives, that we just seem to forget all about. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are just two of these things.

The silent killers

And yet, both smoke and carbon monoxide are silent killers that put you and your family at mortal risk. A national campaign, Fire Kills, is being supported by fire services across the UK, and the gas and plumbing industry is keen that the same awareness is paid to carbon monoxide warning systems.

Gloucestershire County Council is one service that is backing the campaign for regular alarm testing. Cabinet member for GCC, Will Windsor Clive, said: “You are at least four times more likely to die in a fire if you don’t have a working smoke alarm, so taking the time to test the smoke alarms in your home could be a truly life saving decision.”

Remember, remember

But remembering to annually test your alarms is a problem. Short of scribbling a reminder on your fridge or across your calendar, the chances of you remembering to test your alarms are slim. While the change in temperature will remind you to service your boiler or the nagging pain in your jaw will prompt a visit to the dentist, there is no outward reminder for a alarm check. What is needed is a significant date.

Which is why we are suggesting that putting your clocks forward should also be ‘checking alarms day.’ Just as you see your kitchen clock hundreds of times, so you walk past or under your alarm on a daily basis. From this March onwards, make the day you put your clocks forward also the day you test your alarm, it could be a simple move that one day saves your life.

How to test the alarm:

1. Press and hold the test button for a few seconds
2. Listen for the beeping that signals the alarm is working
3. Change the batteries immediately if the alarm fails the test.

Of course, pressing the button only tests if the batteries are working. For a more comprehensive test, actually test the alarm with the very thing it is expected to detect. For a carbon monoxide alarm, you can hold a cigarette or a burning incense stick near the CO alarm. This will prompt a rise in the CO levels and once they exceed 100ppm then the alarm should sound. It may take up to two minutes of exposure for the alarm to sound. You can also purchase CO detector kits, which provide a more reliable reading of CO levels than the cigarette test.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning

• Mild Exposure: Slight headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue (often described as ‘flu-like’ symptoms).
• Medium Exposure: Severe throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, fast heart rate.
• Extreme Exposure: Unconsciousness, convulsions, cardiorespiratory failure, death.

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