The most important thing to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, gas escape or fumes is to GET OUT of the building, car, boat, tent or caravan and do NOT GO BACK.
If you can’t get out, open the windows and turn off all appliances powered by carbon based fuels (gas, coal, oil, wood, petrol, diesel etc.). The next step depends on the fuel.
1. Gas – Gas Emergency Service (24 hours) 0800 111 999; This is a free service.
But be aware that the gas emergency service does not generally*1 carry or use equipment to test gas appliances for carbon monoxide (CO).
*1 Please see http://www.northerngasnetworks.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Giving-carbon-monoxide-nowhere-to-hide.pdf which poses as many questions as it answers. We are trying to find out exactly what this means but we think you should assume that no tests of gas appliances for carbon monoxide emissions are undertaken even by Northern Gas Networks.
The other fuel emergency services may do this but it is best to ask. It is always helpful to find out which appliance was emitting carbon monoxide (CO) and ideally how many parts per million of CO in writing. CO can come from next door etc. Proof of CO can be useful for medical purposes, to convince family, friends and employers that you have been poisoned and finally extremely helpful if you might be bringing a legal case (e.g. against a landlord).
We have been informed that the First Call Operators (FCO) from the gas emergency service providers wear Personal Alarm Monitors (PAMs) which do alarm for CO. However, if you ring the gas emergency service you will be told to open the windows and turn off all appliances. Therefore by the time the FCO arrives it is very likely that there will be no CO in the area unless the CO is coming from next door or from an unsuspected appliances (e.g. wood burner).
Even if the PAM alarms this is not considered to be good proof.
Please Note In the opinion of CO-Gas Safety it is worth thinking over any suggestion to get in a Gas Safe Registered engineer who may make your appliance safe but thereby will almost certainly change the evidence thereby making any legal case not worth pursuing. It may be that even your own family members don’t believe you’ve been poisoned unless you obtain proof. We have found that even medics treat CO victims much better if they receive parts per million of CO in writing from a gas expert.
So we advise you to isolate the appliance and turn it off (which the gas emergency service provider would also do free for you) and seek our help, or seek someone qualified under CMDDA1*2 from the Gas Safe Register or our help to obtain an independent gas expert witness. A registered installer qualified to test gas appliances for CO under CMDDA1 will cost around £100 to £500 and it is up to you to ask around and find out. An independent gas expert court witness able to prove CO, if necessary in a court of law will cost you from £1,000 upwards. Even if you do not wish to take your case to court it may be better to obtain this evidence. Most legal cases do not reach court particularly if the evidence is good so that the other side admits liability and makes a good offer. Registered gas installers qualified under CMDDA1 can provide a good first filter. However, you should be careful to make sure they do not change the evidence and we advise filming them to prove this.
There are at least 1,000 registered gas installers with CMDDA1 qualification which means they can test your gas appliance for CO without changing the evidence.
*2 However, to find someone qualified under CMDDA1 to test gas appliances for CO and provide Parts Per Million of CO to the consumer the consumer has to:-
- Access the Gas Safe Register website http://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/
- Click on advanced search. What consumer would know how to do this?
- Put in post code.
- Search for firms offering ‘fumes investigation’.
- Contact said firms and ask if they employ someone qualified under CMDDA1. If so, ask for their name and check under the GSR. Ask also how much it would cost to test appliances for CO and give PPM of CO in writing.
- When that person turns up the consumer has to check to make sure it is the person with the qualification CMDDA1.
From the Gas Safe Register 01.06.16 in response to an email I sent on from a solicitor who wasn’t finding it possible to find someone qualified in CMDDA1 for her client I received the following:-
‘It is now much easier to find a business /engineer with Fumes Investigation. Please see steps below.
- Click on- Find an engineer.
- Select domestic appliances, commercial appliances and or flexible hours.
- Put the postcode into Find by Location.
- Select choose an appliance/ then select natural gas and or LPG.
- Select appliance type.
- Click on Fumes Investigation.
It will then give you a selection of businesses in the general postcode area that have engineers who hold Fumes Investigation( CMDDA1). The new website treats Fumes Investigation the same way as any other gas work category, without the need for a special search.
I (employee of the Gas Safe Register) have made arrangements to speak with the manager of our customer service centre this afternoon. I suspect however the agent dealing with the enquiry, was simply giving businesses with Fumes Investigation as a work category via the automated service. As previously discussed, it will be necessary to discuss the required service and the type of report with the business.’
Stephanie Trotter, president & director of CO-Gas Safety has taken this up with HSE and am waiting for some kind of resolution…If you need help and advice I suggest you ring or email me before you allow anyone to touch your appliances. Email email@example.com Tel. 07803 088688
2. Solid fuels (HETAS) 0845 634 5626; This may be free see www.hetas.co.uk
Please Note In the opinion of CO-Gas Safety it is worth thinking carefully about any suggestion to get in a Hetas engineer (even perhaps the same one who installed your appliance in the first place) who may make your appliance safe but thereby may change the evidence, thereby making any legal case not worth pursuing. The alternative is to just isolate the appliance, turn it off and seek our help to find an expert.
3. Oil (OFTEC) 0845 658 5080; This may be free but this is unlikely see www.oftec.org
OFTEC operates a competent persons register for oil heating technicians under licence from DCLG. Details of registered technicians in your local area can be found via http://www.oftec.co.uk/Consumers/FindTechnician or by telephoning the office Monday – Friday, 0900 – 1700. Your original installer may be able to assist in making your appliance(s) safe in an emergency situation.
Please Note In the opinion of CO-Gas Safety it is worth thinking carefully about any suggestion to get in an Oftec engineer (even perhaps the same one who installed your appliance in the first place) who may make your appliance safe but may change the evidence, thereby making any legal case not worth pursuing.It is worth consulting us to find an expert. The alternative is to just isolate the appliance, turn it off and seek our help to find an expert.
Unable to repair your gas boiler or gas cooker?
Please read this email from Michael Egan:-
Further to correspondence on Twitter, it would be great if you could signpost people to the British Gas Energy Trust on your website. The Trust covers England, Scotland and Wales and it is a charitable trust which gives free grants to people in financial hardship. The Trust gives grants for boiler repairs/replacements and also gas cookers amongst other things. At present you do not need to be a British Gas customer to apply so the Trust is available to everyone regardless of who their energy supplier is. The only criteria for applying is financial hardship so even employed people can benefit from grants if they are eligible. You do not need to be in receipt of a particular benefit to apply. Further information can be found on the website http://www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk People can apply online or they can request an application form and send it off freepost. Some people on low incomes or benefits cannot always afford to replace a cooker or boiler if it breaks down and very often they will get into debt through payday loans or catalogues to budget for things they cannot afford so the Trust offers a real lifeline to those people as nothing has to be paid back. I work for St. Helens Citizens Advice Bureau and we have received funding from the British Gas Energy Trust since 2011 so I specialise in helping people complete applications. If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.