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HFRS and Trading Standards success with electric blanket testing

Blanket testing success...

31 Dec 2012

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and Trading Standards teamed up throughout October to carry out tests on electric blankets across the county, reducing fire deaths, injuries and fires in buildings.

Fire stations across the county opened their doors on allocated days for the public to bring their blankets in for testing. There were 21 events over 18 days throughout October, where 1,268 blankets were brought in for testing; 788 of those passed and 480 failed.

All failed blankets were passed to The Greyhound Rescue charity, and Gosport Borough Council offered replacement blankets for residents that met the criteria of over 65 years of age or vulnerable.

The public were asked to fill out a questionnaire and comments such as ‘please keep it going, I feel so reassured and safe’, and ‘such an efficient, friendly service,’ were received.

Station Manager, Jim Clarke, says,

"This is a long-standing joint campaign with Trading Standards, and every year its value is displayed with the amount of failed blankets that are identified through the testing process. This year is no exception with approximately one-third of the blankets failing.

“This is a vital initiative which not only helps reduce fires in the home that may result in deaths and injuries, but also provides an engagement opportunity for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service to further develop links with its local community and provide fire safety information and advice."

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Electric Blanket safety messages

There are several things that you can do to protect yourself.

Before you buy an electric blanket:

  • Ensure that it carries a recognised approvals mark, such as the British Electrotechnical Approvals Board (BEAB) mark, or the International Standard number EN 60967.
  • It is not advisable to buy or use a second hand electric blanket. You will not know its history and are unlikely to be able to judge its safety.
  • Before using your electric blanket make sure:
  • You read the instructions provided, keep them safe for future reference and use the blanket correctly.
  • The blanket is not scorched, soiled or wet.
  • You do not position electric underblankets on top of the bed covers (ie. above the occupant of the bed).
  • 99% of blankets fires are believed to have involved blankets that are more than 10 years old - in particular those without overheat protectors. You are strongly advised to take such blankets out of use.

When using your electric blanket make sure that:

  • It is laid flat on the bed as folds or creases can damage the internal wiring and cause overheating.
  • With underblankets, the lead and controller switch are hanging freely and not caught up in the blanket or damaged in any way
  • Underblankets are securely tied to the bed if tie tapes are supplied.
  • The blanket is switched off or unplugged before you get into bed if it is marked as a pre-heating underblanket.

Looking after your electric blanket:

  • Have your blanket inspected by the manufacturer or qualified electrician in accordance with their instructions. They usually recommend inspections every three years.
  • Only wash or clean your blanket in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Check the blanket frequently for detached tie tapes, frayed edges, scorch marks and loose electrical connections.
  • Phone the manufacturer to see if they carry out tests, and how much a test would cost, it is sometimes cheaper to buy a replacement periodically.
  • Sometimes your local Fire Station or Trading Standards Service may organise checks in your area. Watch the press or check their web sites for details.

Storing your electric blanket

When you are not using your blanket:

  • Leave it on the bed or roll it or fold it loosely to avoid creases as far as possible; under blankets may be left tied to the bed all year round.
  • Avoid storing other objects on top of your blanket.
  • Keep it in a dry place.

Smoke alarms

A smoke alarm can give you those precious few minutes of warning which could help you and your family to get out safely in the event of fire.

Smoke alarms cost around £7 and are simple to install. They are widely available from DIY, hardware and electrical shops. Choose an alarm which meets British Standards BS 5446 Part 1 and carries the Kitemark.

Follow the manufacturers instructions on positioning, fitting and battery replacement.

Visit http://www.hantsfire.gov.uk/fittingsmokealarms for advice on smoke detectors.

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