January and February are renowned for being cold months, leading to many of us at this time of year looking in to ways of keeping warm, whilst also keeping costs down.
In a bid to achieve this many people turn to portable heaters and electric blankets, however, with half of all domestic fires arising from electricity, it is essential that they are aware of the dangers of such appliances.
Sadly it is older people that are disproportionately affected by fires in the home, representing around a third of all dwelling fire casualties. A report by the charity Electrical Safety First found that one million people over 75 live in homes that are not warm enough, are in a state of disrepair or do not have modern facilities. These homes can be dangerous as they don’t meet basic electrical safety standards, and don’t include life-saving devices such as a modern fusebox, circuit breakers and PVC wiring. Sometimes a health condition such as dementia or Parkinson’s can increase the risk of an electrical accident, as these conditions cause reduced mobility and memory.
Statistics also show that people aged over 80 are at least four times more likely than any other age group to be a casualty in an electrical fire; fatalities caused by an electrical fuel source are significantly higher amongst people aged over 80 than other age groups, and 50,000 people aged 65+ will be living with dementia in Wales by 2025, putting extra challenges on home electrical safety.
Electrical Safety First’s analysis on fires in the UK also unearthed that a shocking 12 accidental electrical fires occur every single day in the homes of older people living alone.
With nearly half of respondents surveyed who live alone admitting they do not know the warning signs something could be seriously wrong with their electrics, Electrical Safety First is has launched it’s ‘Over 65s’ campaign, which I am pleased to be backing, urging people to check on the electrical safety of older family members or neighbours, and has developed a range of tools and guides to help keep them safe in their home.
Many older people want to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible, but this puts the responsibility on individuals to ensure that their homes are safe. Concerns about the cost of repairs and a lack of awareness of the risks can lead to owner-occupiers living in homes with major safety hazards, yet most electrical fires are caused by simple mistakes that can easily be avoided.
We must all play our part in helping to tackle this issue and I urge you all to take time this winter to check in on your older neighbour, friend or relative. It won’t only go a long way in helping combat loneliness, but it could also save a life.
If you’re worried about your property, or concerned about a neighbour or relative, visit electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/olderpeople for information on what action you should take.