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Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is issuing a safety warning about carbon monoxide following a number of enquiries from the public.

Firefighters visiting people's homes as part of the organisation's community safety programme are increasingly being asked whether the smoke detectors they fit also double up as carbon monoxide detectors.

It is believed the interest follows a number of highly publicised tragedies in the national media involving carbon monoxide poisoning.

Neil Boustred, from Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's community safety team, said: "We need to make it clear that the smoke detectors we fit do not work as carbon monoxide detectors. However, many of the steps we advise people to take to reduce the risk of a fire in their home will also help reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is odourless, colourless and tasteless. It can be given off by any appliance in rented or private accommodation, including a heater, a boiler or a fire, that burns gas, coal, oil or wood.

"Having no colour, smell or taste means that it is very hard to detect. Inhaling carbon monoxide reduces the blood's ability carry oxygen, leaving the body's organs and cells starved of oxygen.

"Each year over 50 people die in the UK as a direct result of exposure to carbon monoxide gas. Many more people die through strokes and respiratory illness made worse by inhaling low levels of carbon monoxide over prolonged periods, and still more are left with permanent damage."

Neil and the team have produced the following information and advice for people who are worried about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

You are at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning if:

  • Your appliance was poorly installed.
  • Your appliance is not working properly.
  • Your appliance has not been checked for safety or maintained regularly.
  • There is not enough fresh air in the room.
  • Your chimney or flue gets blocked (for example, by a bird's nest).
  • You allow engineers who are not registered with the Gas Safe Register (see bottom of page) to install or maintain your appliance(s).
  • You leave your car engine running in a garage or other enclosed space.

Appliance warning signs

  • Gas flames burn orange or yellow instead of blue.
  • Stains, soot or discolouring are visible around fire or water heater.
  • An unusual smell when the appliance is on.
  • Solid fuel appliances that burn slowly, or go out.
  • The fire is difficult to light.
  • Pilot light frequently blows out.
  • Increased condensation inside the window.

Physical warning signs


  • Tiredness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fatigue/exhaustion
  • Short term memory loss
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Palpitations
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Unconsciousness

If you think you have any of the symptoms

  • Get to fresh air immediately.
  • Open doors and windows to ventilate the room.
  • Turn off all appliances and do not reuse.
  • Visit your GP urgently.
  • Contact an installer/technician registered with the Gas Safe Register to inspect any defective fuel burning appliance and get your chimney/flue (smoke duct in a chimney) inspected.

Safety tips

  • Make sure chimneys and flues are regularly swept by a competent sweeper.
  • Boilers and heating systems and appliances should be installed, maintained and regularly serviced by a competent engineer (for gas appliances, make sure they are registered with the Gas Safe Register).
  • Never cook a barbecue indoors - the charcoal gives off carbon monoxide.
  • It is best to buy appliances from reputable dealers. Make sure they fit the appropriate British or European safety requirements.
  • Avoid buying second-hand appliances - if you do, make sure they have been tested for safety.
  • Insist on a guarantee from the dealer and a copy of the user instructions.
  • Never install or reconnect an appliance yourself.
  • By law, gas appliances must be fitted and maintained by an installer who is registered with the Gas Safe Register.
  • Have all your gas appliances serviced regularly by an installer registered with the Gas Safe Register - once a year for gas fires and boilers. Ensure this includes a safety check to make sure flues are working properly.
  • Ventilation is vital - never obstruct or block any vent.
  • Make sure heaters are well clear of curtains, furniture and bedding.

Advice when moving into new accommodation

  • Ask to see a copy of the current Gas Landlords Certificate. This is a record of safety checks carried out.
  • Ensure the safety checks were carried out by an engineer registered with the Gas Safe Register.
  • Do not use any gas appliances that you think may be unsafe.
  • Do not attempt DIY work on appliances.

Fitting a carbon monoxide detector

  • Carbon monoxide detectors should comply with British Standard BS 7860.
  • They should be used as early warning indicators only - they are not a substitute for regular servicing.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors should not be installed near smoke alarms or fuel-burning appliances.
  • One detector should be installed at knee height near the sleeping area of your home.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper use and maintenance.
  • Use detectors as warnings only - do not replace regular checks with detectors.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors do not replace the need for smoke detectors.

For more information about the Gas Safe Register, which replaced CORGI gas registration in Great Britain on 1 April 2009, visit