As part of Electrical Fire Safety Week from 14 to 20 November, Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) is again warning people not to let electrical failures set their world ablaze.

Supporting the Government's Fire Kills campaign and backed by the charity Electrical Safety First – which works to reduce deaths and injuries caused by electricity in the home - the Week is a chance to remind people to be vigilant at all times, especially when buying on-line, and going for cheap smart tech. From faulty fridges and irons left unattended, to dodgy plugs and wiring, electrical equipment can be an unnoticed fire hazard in the home.

Dangerous electrics cause about 4,000 fires in the home each year. Counterfeit electrical products remain an all-too common problem while even genuine items can have problems, so registering purchases and monitoring electrical product recalls remain vital safety-factors. This year we’re particularly urging people to consider more than just the price when choosing a portable heater for the winter.

The continuing rise in the cost of living may make small, inexpensive space heaters look a practical and efficient way to heat a room. There are numerous products available, which start at just over £10, but saving a few pounds on an unsuitable appliance could prove extremely costly. New research, released by the charity this week, indicates that across the UK, 42% [1] of respondents are either using or considering using an electric heater to heat a single room in their home, due to concerns over the cost of central heating. Their latest figures represent an 8% [1] increase, year-on-year, in those planning to use electric heaters this winter to heat a single room in their home.

Other findings show how, for many, this change in behaviour will be new, with over 1 in 3 (37%) of those planning to use an electric heater this winter having not done so before.. Shopping for electric heaters has also been popular in the last year, with more than 1 in 5 (22%) of respondents concerned about the rising energy costs purchasing one in the last year. According to Electrical Safety First, with electrical faults and accidents causing more than half of all house fires in England annually, adults frequently ignore an electrical recall notice, citing inconvenience, an unwillingness to go without a “luxury” product and underestimating the risk of continuing to use the product.

The charity also know people are reluctant to register products, as people do not know how to do it, do not realise the importance of registration, fail to ‘get round to it’ and do not want to hand over their personal data in case it is used for marketing purposes.

Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First, commented: “Heating your home should never come at the expense of your own safety. While portable heaters can be useful to heat a small space, they can pose a real risk to your home and your life if mistakes are made when using them. With the significant number of people set to turn to these appliances this winter, it’s vital we use them safely.”

In Herefordshire and Worcestershire, the Service attended 1,855 electrical fires between 01 Jan 2012 and 31 Dec 2021, 882 of them – or nearly a half - in homes, while 514 callouts were to business premises. Cooking appliances were the most common cause - 61 incidents - with 241 caused by domestic-style appliances, such as TVs. The kitchen accounted for most incidents – some 344 or 39% of all home fires. Worcester, Redditch and Hereford fire stations saw the most incidents in the HWFRS area.

HWFRS Head of Prevention, Emma Roberts, said: “Electrical equipment is an inescapable part of all our lives, from essentials like heating and lights to luxuries like entertainment systems or beauty products.

“Numerous accidental fires begin with an electrical appliance, so it’s really important to be sure that your electrics are in top-notch condition and used properly.

“This year, as the cost of living hits, I’d urge people not to go for low-cost portable heaters, putting price above safety.”

Top Tips to Stay Safe

  • Don’t overload plug sockets

  • Regularly check for worn or frayed wires

  • Unplug appliances when not in use

  • Keep appliances clean and in good working order

  • Never leave portable heaters unattended

  • Never leave them on while sleeping

  • Ensure they are at least a metre away from any combustible materials, such as paper or curtains * Ensure that they are kept well away from anything which could knock them over * Regularly inspect your heater for damage. If it’s damaged – don’t use it

Emma added:
“Black Friday also takes place just after Electrical Safety Week – next Friday (25 November) – when people are tempted by some amazing bargains, meaning another chance for a counterfeit bonanza. Then it’s Cyber Monday on 28 November with more tempting offers available. “So if you’re buying online, make sure you buy from a trusted retailer, either direct from the manufacturer’s website or a well-known High Street name. That way, if something goes wrong, you can return the product for repair or a refund. “Shoppers can also check a product’s status at Electrical Safety First’s free ‘Check It Out’ site, identifying third party sellers on popular online retailers and helping make an informed buying decision. Find out more at www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/check-it-out. “Having bought an item, don’t forget to register it for free HERE. “Remember, if a bargain seems too good to be true, it most probably is.” Emma is also reminding people that HWFRS offers FREE home safety checks: ”You can complete a FREE online Home Fire Safety check by following the link on our website. This easy-to-follow check will take you through your home a room at a time - the simple questions will help you spot fire risks and make your home safer. You can also call our Freephone telephone number on 0800 032 1155 to see if you qualify for a visit. Points to consider include:

  • fake and substandard items can be almost impossible to spot and online shoppers can be misled by pictures taken from official product sites, false official safety marks and all-too-believable pricing

  • items can even be priced just below recommended retail value to avoid arousing suspicion

  • buying fake electrical products is particularly risky as they often contain faulty parts that can overheat and catch fire or deliver a fatal electric shock

  • although many items appear sophisticated on the outside, they lack essential safety components inside.

Go to the Fire Kills websites for a wealth of guidance to improve safety in your home, and there is a wealth of guidance at /www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/. [1] Research conducted by Censuswide