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Council warns against the dangers of keeping a warm home this winter

08 November 2016

Derry City and Strabane District Council is encouraging the public to support Electrical Fire Safety Week which runs from 21-27 November to promote electrical fire safety in the home.

According to research carried out by Electrical Safety First, people are playing with fire in their efforts to find cheaper heating options this winter and many are unaware of the dangers that the alternatives can pose.

Electrical Safety First’s research found that 78% of people were worried about the rising costs of energy bills, and over half would use portable heaters as an alternative to keep warm this winter. One of the focuses of the week is the issue of portable heaters which, if not used carefully, have the potential to start a fire.

Seamus Donaghy, Council’s Head of Health and Communities, said many people could put themselves and their loved ones at risk by using the heaters incorrectly.

“According to the research provided up to 38% of people admitted that they would leave a heater switched on and unattended, whilst 21% would leave one switched on overnight. The elderly are particularly vulnerable and we are keen to create more awareness of the dangers and to provide some advice and guidance for heating homes safely,” she said.

He added that the public should follow the guidance for heating homes safely.

  • Always follow the manufacturers’ operating and maintenance instructions. Keep them clean and serviced regularly. Pay special attention following a period of storage or after a seasonal break.
  • Ventilate rooms where the heater is to be used.
  • Ensure a permanent safety guard is fitted. If the heater is to be used in one place, fix it securely to a floor or a wall.
  • Turn off portable heaters before going to bed at night.
  • Do not move the heater while it is alight or switched on.
  • Do not stand or sit too close, your clothing may melt or ignite.
  • Do not place a heater too close to furniture, bedding, or curtains.
  • Do not place heaters where they can be knocked over.
  • Do not operate a heater from where a door could open on to it.
  • Do not air, or dry clothing on heaters.
  • Do not leave portable heaters on if young children or pets are left unattended.
  • Do not use flammable adhesives, cleaning fluids or aerosol sprays near a heater.
  • Remember that fumes given off from some products are heavier than air and will travel some distance.


Mr Donaghy explained that while having a warm home this winter is something everyone deserves, it is important that the dangers associated with them are understood and taken on board. “The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 (SI 1994 No. 3260) specify that all mains electrical equipment, new or used, supplied with the accommodation, must be safe. If it complies with an acceptable standard, e.g. a British/European Standard, it will normally meet safety requirements.

“These safety requirements cover: labelling, construction, design, and manufacture; insulation and earthing; protection from electric shock; adequate guards for radiant heaters or moving parts and the need to provide instructions for safe use.”

Mr Donaghy added that landlords and owners of rental properties also played a key role in terms of home safety.

“Should a Landlord provide any electrical equipment as part of the tenancy of the property, for example a wash machine or portable electric heater, they must ensure that it is safe to use. Landlords need to set up a satisfactory test programme for electrical equipment and this can include both visual and full electrical checks. The frequency and type of check will depend on the appliance and how often it is used and a competent electrician/electrical engineer should be able to provide further advice,” he added.

As part of Electrical Safety Week the Council will be encouraging the public to register all electrical appliances.

“The ‘Register My Appliance’ website makes it easy for you to register all of your electrical products. You will need the brand name, model, serial number and purchase date and the registration process is very simple to follow. The manufacturer will only contact you in the event of a recall, your details will not be used for marketing. Go to www.registermyappliance.org.uk for more information and to register your electrical products.

Consumers concerned regarding the safety of an electrical portable heater or goods are urged to contact the Environmental Health’s Consumer Protection section or have any queries relating to home safety to contact the Home Safety section for advice and guidance.

For more information on consumer protection issues visit -

For information on Public health/housing queries visit - http://www.derrystrabane.com/Subsites/Environmental-Health/Public-Health-Protection-Team

For more information on Home safety/ health development visit -