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49% of electric blankets fail safety test 11 November 2008

Firefighters with failed electric blanketsALMOST half of all electric blankets tested as part of a recent safety initiative posed a potential fire risk.

Officers from the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service hosted testing sessions last week in conjunction with specialist UK company GEMS Ltd. A total of 321 electric blankets were checked at fire stations in Ramsey, Port Erin and Douglas. Of those, 160 (50 per cent) were passed with no faults, three (1 per cent) were repaired and 158 (49 per cent) failed.

Community fire safety officer Carl Kinvig said:

‘The results of this year’s safety campaign were dramatic with nearly half of all electric blankets tested in the Island being identified as potential fire risks. With rising energy costs and the current economic climate, more people than ever before will be trying to save money by heating a single room or switching on their electric blankets. Consequently, the benefits of our annual testing sessions cannot be overstated.’

Station Officer Kinvig added:

‘As a general guide, people should have their electric blankets tested every two years and any that are more than 10 years old should be replaced. Faulty blankets can be responsible for devastating household fires and this year’s failure rate of 49 per cent brings that risk into sharp focus.’

Testing an electric blanketUK statistics show that up to 1,000 house fires are caused by electric blankets each year, resulting in between 10 and 20 deaths and 190 injuries. As well as the human element of such incidents there are also financial implications, with the average cost of a house fire estimated at £25,000. Elderly people are particularly at risk as they are more likely to use electric blankets as a way of keeping warm at night throughout the autumn and winter months.

Home Affairs Minister Adrian Earnshaw MHK said:

‘Free testing has been carried out in the Isle of Man on an annual basis since 2000. These sessions form an important part of the ongoing campaign to improve all aspects of consumer safety.’

Department political member George Waft added:

‘The Fire and Rescue Service’s prevention and protection initiatives help to reduce the number of emergency call-outs. Faulty electric blankets can be extremely dangerous, particularly for the more vulnerable members of our society, so the fact that so many people took up our offer of free testing is encouraging.’

Clive Macdonald, managing director of Plymouth-based GEMS Ltd, conducted flash tests on blankets handed in by members of the public at Ramsey, Port Erin and Douglas fire stations. This involved the use of specialist equipment to pass up to 20,000 volts through the blankets in order to detect any problems with the insulation covering the heating elements.

Plugs and fuses were also checked and repairs were carried out wherever practical. People whose electric blankets failed the test were offered vouchers towards buying a replacement from the Manx Electricity Authority, Pascoes or Marown TV. The faulty blankets will still provide some much needed warmth, however, as they are to be offered to various animal charities in the Island for use as bedding.

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