by Lisa Brand
As we are steadily approaching the holiday season, many of you will soon be travelling abroad or staying local and holidaying somewhere in the UK with your family. Wherever it is you are travelling to, you will soon need to start thinking of all those holiday necessities that you will need to pack, yet, I bet the most important item of all that you should be taking away with you hasn’t even crossed your mind. A carbon monoxide alarm. You may well be wondering why on earth you would need to take a carbon monoxide alarm on holiday with you, so let me explain.
Unfortunately, gas safety isn’t something tourists think about when they are booking their summer vacations. They’re more concerned about the star rating of their hotel, how clean the apartment or hotel is, how good the amenities are, the distance to the beach and whether they have a pool or sea view.
We all just assume that we will be safe when we go on holiday and never think of the consequences that could possibly occur.
However, back in 2006, siblings, Bobby and Christi Shepherd, aged six and seven died of carbon monoxide poisoning at the Louis Corcyra Beach hotel in Corfu, Greece. Their deaths were caused by a defective gas boiler. The hotel manager and two other people were found guilty of manslaughter by negligence and were all given seven years in prison. It was concluded that Thomas Cook, the travel agents had “breached its duty of care.”
Sadly, this isn’t a one-off case and there have been many other cases since this tragic event where other holidaymakers have also died of carbon monoxide poisoning whilst abroad.
What is carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide is an invisible gas, which has no smell or taste which can make it extremely hard to detect unless you have a CO alarm. Breathing in this gas can be life-threatening and can make you very unwell. Each year approximately 25 unsuspecting victims in the UK and Wales die from CO poisoning after inhaling these poisonous gases.
Once carbon monoxide enters your bloodstream it can be fatal. It mixes with your haemoglobin (a protein in your red blood cells that transports oxygen to your body’s tissue and organs).
Once carbon monoxide gases are in your body, the blood can longer transport oxygen and with the absence of oxygen, your body’s tissue and cells can no longer function properly and will collapse and begin to die.
Wherever you are travelling to this year it is important that you remain gas aware and keep in mind these straightforward gas safety precautions.
- When you arrive, find out if the gas appliances in your accommodation have been recently serviced and safety checked. If you are going away somewhere in the UK to either a caravan or a cottage, by law, the landlords must ensure their properties are gas safe before your arrival. Check with the landlord for a current gas safety record.
- Take a carbon monoxide detector away with you as you won’t always find them abroad. Amazon sells these, which are compact and suitable for travel.
- Never use a gas cooker or BBQ as a source of heating as they require plenty of ventilation when they are being used and never store a gas BBQ in your tent or accommodation.
- If you are unsure of how to use any of the gas appliances in your accommodation, speak to your holiday rep who will be able to help you.
- Look out for dangerous gas appliances in your accommodation. If they have any of the following signs, it means they are not working properly and shouldn’t be used:
- Black smudges or marks around the appliance
- Signs of condensation Weak yellow or orange flames (they should be a sharp blue flame like the one below):
- Make sure you can recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning immediately and don’t confuse these symptoms with food poisoning from what you ate for dinner the night before, a hangover or dehydration. The main symptoms to look out for are:
- Headaches (tension-type) the most common symptom experienced in mild cases of CO poisoning
- Nausea & vomiting
- Feeling tired and confused
- Stomach pains
- Loss of consciousness
If you have been exposed to small amounts of carbon monoxide gases, the symptoms you experience may feel similar to having the flu or food poisoning. However, carbon monoxide poisoning doesn’t produce a fever (high temperature).
The longer you are exposed to CO gases, the worse your symptoms will become which can result in a delayed diagnosis.
If you suspect you have any of these symptoms or think you can smell gas:
- Open all windows immediately
- Switch off the gas at the meter
- Put out any naked flames
- Request medical help straight away especially if you are feeling unwell
- Inform the holiday rep or owner of the property immediately
There have been 28 injuries and 12 fatalities reported from carbon monoxide poisoning to holidaymakers from July 2011 to April 2013. Gas appliances which have been poorly fitted and not regularly maintained can lead to gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning – which can lead to death.
Keep in mind that Gas Safety guidelines will vary depending on where you are travelling to.
Remember, it’s just as important to stay gas safe on holiday as it is in our homes, whether that is abroad or in the UK. Never cut corners where gas is concerned and familiarise yourself with the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning before travelling:
If you suspect that you have a gas leak in the UK, or you can smell gas, call the free gas emergency number (24 hours) straight away on 0800 111 999 or visit GasSafeRegister.co.uk.
If you would like to learn more about the gas installation and maintenance courses Barrett-Bell have to offer, please get in touch or call 01923 253 866 for more information.