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Caithness News Bulletins November 2003
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RECENT INCIDENT HIGHLIGHTS
DANGERS OF USING OLD ELECTRIC BLANKETS
13 November 03
The barking of a family dog saved the day in a Highland home when a faulty electric blanket caught fire in a child’s cot. The family removed the smouldering blanket from the child’s cot and put it outside where it then burst into flames
The incident, attended by Fire Brigade crews based in Inverness, has highlighted once more the hazards presented by old or poorly maintained electric blankets. The electric blanket was bought second-hand from a car-boot sale.
"This was a close call," said Divisional Commander, Calum Munro. "Without the barking of the family pet, we could have had a tragedy on our hands."
Old and damaged electric blankets have been identified as being the cause of more than 5,000 fires a year and to date this has resulted in at least 20 associated deaths and 250 injuries having been recorded. Both Highlands & Islands Fire Brigade and the Trading Standards Unit of The Highland Council have previously issued warnings to the public of the need to ensure that electric blankets are used, stored and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidance and of the need to consider disposing of old electric blankets, especially if they are older than ten years, when increased safety standards were introduced.
This case is however particularly worrying to both the Fire Brigade and Trading Standards in that it was a second-hand blanket that was involved. Both organisations are keen to emphasise to the public that they cannot assume that something bought from an individual at a car-boot sale will be safe. Retailers, including those who sell second hand goods, are all required by law to take steps to ensure that what they are selling is safe. In the case of some second hand goods and certainly with electrical appliances this would invariably involve the examination and testing of the appliance by a competent person such as an electrician.
None of these safeguards apply to private individuals selling their belongings through classified adverts or from car-boot sales. This means that it is you the buyer who needs to ensure that what they are buying is safe and actually works. When buying an electric blanket and you would always be advised to buy a new one, people should look for a European certification mark such as the BEAB Approved label, which not only means that the manufacturer is claiming that the product is designed and manufactured to current safety standards, but that the British Electrotechnical Approvals Board (BEAB) has certified that it does.
Electric blankets in use, may have other older BEAB approval marks, or which make reference to British Standard 3456 (BS 3456). This standard was replaced in 1991 and will not provide the level of protection that is offered by new blankets. The current safety standard for electric blankets is BS EN 60335.
The best general advice in relation to your existing electric blanket is: -
To have your blanket checked or replaced if;
If the plug or mains lead is damaged, make sure this is repaired before you use it. Remember older blankets are much more likely to have one or more of these faults.
If your blanket is more than 10 years old, or if it shows signs of wear and tear, the best advice is to get a new one.
Finally, the Highland and Islands Fire Brigade is urging the public to INSTALL AND MAINTAIN smoke alarms and prepare a FIRE ACTION PLAN NOW, before it is too late.