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75% of children at risk of electrical fire

ELECTRICAL SAFETY FIRST have carried out new research which studied the risks children face from the devices in their bedrooms.

Of all children surveyed, more than a quarter (27%) said they have used or purchased a cheap unbranded charger, nearly two in five (38%) admitted to leaving their phones charging overnight underneath their pillow, and over half (54%) said they had left a laptop, tablet or phone charging on their bed.

The research has shown that charging devices on a bed is a common occurrence. However, this significantly increases the risk of a fire. The heat generated by a phone on charge has nowhere to dissipate when the phone is under a pillow or surrounded by bedding, which generates even more heat. Combined with flammable materials, this heat can endanger property and lives by catching fire. If it’s not charged on a table or similar environment, even a device manufactured to the correct safety standards can swiftly become dangerous.

Also a worry is the fact that over a quarter of all children in the study have bought or used a cheap unbranded charger. Perhaps the most potentially dangerous counterfeit items tested by Electrical Safety First are substandard or counterfeit chargers. These usually contain malfunctioning parts that can deliver a fatal electric shock or catch fire by overheating.

Electrical Safety First found that, on average, children’s bedrooms contain ten electrical items, ranging from phone chargers and hair straighteners to tablets and fairy lights.

This amounts to nearly 25% more electrical devices than the number their parents’ generation had when growing up.

Today’s children, compared to their parents’ generation, are exposed to many more electrical safety risks. More than five out of six children (84%) have downloaded or are planning to download the popular ‘Pokemon Go’, a battery-draining game that will increase the need for phone chargers over the summer.

The findings have shown that, shockingly, parents are more likely than their children to take risks. Compared to 79% of children, 84% of parents admitted to taking risks. Two in five parents (41%), for example, have bought or used a cheap unbranded charger.

Head of Communications at Electrical Safety First, Emma Apter, said: “The research shows that, unwittingly, many parents and children are taking big risks with their safety. Technology has advanced at a rapid pace over the last 20 years and children’s bedrooms now contain more sophisticated technology than ever before. Many parents are unaware of the electrical dangers in their children’s bedrooms and how one person’s bad habits could put the whole family at risk. We’d like parents to understand the risks and lead by example.”

Dwayne Blanchard, a Leicester father of three, experienced firsthand the dangers of unsafe charging after a near miss with a potentially devastating fire last November. Thankfully, Dwayne had been home later than planned that morning and the smell of burning, emanating from his son’s bedroom, woke him up. He ran into the room and found the sheets in flames, caused by a phone and Bluetooth speaker on charge under his son’s pillow.

“I saw the fire on his pillow, where his phone and Bluetooth speaker were sat. I was able to put it out straight away but if I hadn’t been there, it could have burned the house down. I feel like we had a real lucky escape. We’re in a semi so it could have been devastating for us and our next-door neighbour.”

The fire has led to Dwayne and his partner, Rachel, introducing new rules in the house: all electronics are charged downstairs, and nothing is left plugged in overnight or when everyone goes out.

“Brandon did have a proper charger for his phone, but the Bluetooth speaker was plugged into a different charger than the one it came with, just because it was the right size. I won’t be letting him use a different charger or charge anything under his pillow again.”

For advice about how to keep you and your family safe in the home, visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/ modernfamily.

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Dayne Stone

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