London Fire Brigade issues heater warning ahead of work from home winter

London Fire Brigade (LFB) is warning of a possible spike in fires as people turn to cheaper ways to heat their homes, without properly considering the fire risks. With more than half of Londoners who are in employment doing some form of working from home earlier in 2020, and many preparing to continue to do so into the New Year, it’s likely that the added time at home could mean that the heating will be on for longer. According to a study by Energy Helpline, the average household energy bill could climb by £107 this winter for those working from home five days a week.

Portable heaters are one of the most common alternatives to turning on the heating that people use to stay warm whilst working in one room, but if they’re not used properly, could cause a devastating fire. Fires in London involving heaters, which typically start in the afternoon between the hours of noon and 5pm, have almost doubled this year in comparison to the same period last year. As the weather gets colder, there is a concern that fires involving heaters could spike as more people bring them into their work from home set-ups.

LFB’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Charlie Pugsley, said, “You won’t meet that deadline if your desk goes up in flames. Whether you’re set up to work from your dining room table, working on your sofa or have a home office, it’s important that you stay warm, but also take every precaution to stay safe this winter. Sitting in one place for a period of time can make you feel cold and portable heaters can be a good way to stay warm without heating your entire home, but it’s important to take a minute to consider how safe your workspace really is. If you have a heater under your desk or your paperwork leaning up against them, you could be putting yourself, your home and your family at risk.”

Earlier this month, a fire started at a house in Plumstead after a halogen heater was left too close to clothing. Two women and a baby were treated for smoke inhalation and the baby was taken to hospital, but luckily discharged the same day.

Firefighters’ tips for using portable heaters safely

  • Make sure heaters are well maintained and in good working order.
  • Check that your heater isn't on a recall list – there have been many fires in the past year due to heaters that have been recalled.
  • Never install, repair or service appliances yourself. Make sure anyone who does is a registered professional.
  • Don't take risks with old heaters – if it's sparking, wires are loose or if it’s showing signs of damage, replace it with a new one or get it tested and repaired by a qualified electrician.
  • Keep heaters well away from clothes, curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes.
  • Always sit at least one metre away from a heater as it could set light to your clothes or chair.
  • Before attempting to move your heater, turn it off and allow it to cool first.
  • Gas heater cylinders should be changed in the in the open air, if you have to change them indoors, make sure all rooms are ventilated and open the windows and doors.
  • Never store cylinders in basements, under stairs or on balconies and get empty cylinders collected regularly.

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