Elderly in Fenland ignore free gas safety checks as winter starts to bite

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THOUSANDS of potentially life-saving gas safety checks offered free by the energy suppliers go unclaimed every year, as the number of winter deaths in the east of England reached as high as 2,500 last winter, according to research carried out for Gas Safe Register, which found that 90% of Fenland’s elderly homeowners have never claimed a free gas safety check.

As the winter weather begins to bite and puts increased pressure on our central heating systems, latest official ONS statistics show that 25,700 died from cold-related illnesses last year, with the number of deaths in the east of England reaching 2,500.

Gas Safe Register is urging people, particularly the elderly, to make sure they take advantage of free gas safety checks if they are eligible and ensure they have well-maintained and safe gas appliances. When a gas boiler, gas fire or heater fails, the average home can quickly drop to 16°C, the temperature at which hypothermia can set in. While younger people feel cold, it’s far more serious for the elderly, whose temperature falls far faster and to dangerous levels when their home temperature falls below 16°C. That’s why the energy companies offer free checks to the most vulnerable.

The UK has the highest winter death rate in Northern Europe, so Gas Safe Register is warning people to make sure their home gas appliances will see them and their loved ones safely through the winter. ONS data shows that the cold can cause or exacerbate illnesses such as high blood pressure, thrombosis or respiratory infections, as it weakens the immune system.

Paul Johnston, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register says, “We’re urging everyone to take whatever support they can to keep safe and warm this winter. Having your gas appliances checked annually is vital to ensure that they are running safely. If you don’t get your appliances checked every year, you are risking gas leaks, fires, explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning. Although all appliances need to be checked every year, it’s very important for elderly people, as appliances in their homes tend to be older and not as reliable.”

To find out if you’re eligible for a free gas safety check, visit www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk or contact your energy supplier.

Top 5 ways of staying warm safely:

1. Get your gas appliances safety checked once a year to make sure they work safely and don’t break down in the cold.

2. If you are having your gas appliances checked, always use a Gas Safe registered engineer – it’s the law and will help keep you safe.

3. Always use gas appliances responsibly. Never use a gas cooker to heat or room or a house.

4. Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas produced by badly maintained gas appliances. Look out for danger signs - sooty stains on or around appliances, floppy yellow flames (instead of crisp blue ones) and excessive condensation in a room are all signs that your gas appliances could be producing carbon monoxide.

5. If you are over the age of 60 you may be entitled to a free gas safety check. Go to www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk to find out more or ask your energy supplier.