The Importance of Carbon Monoxide Alarms


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Here at Comfort Insurance we are always deeply saddened to hear when campervan or motorhome holidays go wrong, especially when it leads to injury or loss of life. This is why in this month’s blog we have chosen to address an extremely important issue: carbon monoxide poisoning. Earlier this month a couple were found deceased in a caravan due to carbon monoxide poisoning – two deaths that could have easily been prevented.

Staying safe on your journeys is of the utmost importance, which is why if you have not yet installed a carbon monoxide alarm into your caravan, motorhome or campervan we suggest you do so straight away. Here we provide some advice on fitting and maintaining your carbon monoxide alarm and the tragic incident that has led to this article:

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Carbon Monoxide Fatalities

On Wednesday 21st January at approximately 15:00 GMT police attended Bonny’s caravan park on Tullybrannigan Road in Newcastle, County Down to find the bodies of Nan and Francie O’Reilly. The couple, who were both in their mid-seventies, had died in their sleep with police suspecting the cause of death to be carbon monoxide poisoning. Discussing the tragic incident, South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said: “I have been in touch with local police who have informed me of the discovery of two bodies in a south Down caravan site.

“I understand that police are treating it as suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at this stage. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of these two people who are undoubtedly going through a deeply traumatic and difficult time. I’m shocked and deeply saddened by this awful discovery.” An investigation into the deaths is already underway, with a spokesman from the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) saying: “HSENI is looking into the circumstances of a fatal incident at a caravan park in the Newcastle area.”

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Over the past decade the dangers associated with carbon monoxide poisoning have become more publicised, as not only can it cause severe illnesses but also fatalities. The biggest danger with carbon monoxide is that it is completely odourless which means that most people don’t realise they are being poisoned until it’s too late. According to the NHS website, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
  • tiredness and confusion
  • stomach pain
  • shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Ensuring you remain safe from carbon monoxide poisoning in your motorhome, campervan or caravan is relatively easy as all you have to do is install a carbon monoxide alarm which will alert you if there is a leak. Some motorhome owners choose to take their carbon monoxide alarms from home with them when they go away, however as most alarms only cost around £20 we would suggest investing in one that is permanently kept in your motorhome. There are numerous carbon monoxide alarms to choose from, however you must always make sure the one you purchase has a EN 50291 mark – also written as BSEN 50291 or shown with the CE mark.

Maintaining Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Even though most campervan and motorhome owners have some sort of carbon monoxide alarm installed in their vehicles this is not always enough to keep them safe. As with fire alarms, carbon monoxide alarms need to be tested on a regular basis in order to make sure that they are working properly and that the batteries haven’t worn out.

It is also imperative that your carbon monoxide alarm is fitted in a suitable area, with Which? suggesting that they should be positioned at head height (either affixed to a wall or placed on a shelf) 150mm away from the ceiling. At the same time you need to insure your alarms are at least a metre away from boilers, fires, cookers or heaters in order to prevent false alarms.

In an Emergency

If you are in your motorhome and your carbon monoxide alarm sounds there are a number of steps you will need to take according to the charity Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed!:

  1. Open all windows and doors and leave the vehicle immediately
  2. If you are feeling unwell call 999 straight away
  3. Make sure all gas appliances have been turned off
  4. Arrange for a registered engineer to check all the gas appliances in your vehicle
  5. Call one of the following advice lines:
  • Gas Emergency Service – 0800 111 999
  • Solid Fuel Advice Line – 0845 601 4406
  • Oil (OFTEC) – 0845 658 5080

Photo by Ivo.N / CC BY-SA 3.0