Carbon Monoxide Poisoning When Camping or Caravanning

Each year when camping or caravanning there are serious illnesses or even death from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Most of these could have been prevented if the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) had been more widely known and some simple preventative steps taken. In the UK around 50 people die and 200 people are hospitalised, while not all of these people will have been camping, the risks are significantly higher. As the gas is odourless and colourless there is no way to detect if the gas is present. The gas makes you drowsy and can make you unable to respond to other warning signs such as headaches and nausea.

Because tents and caravans are a confined space, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning is greater. Therefore, having an audible CO alarm is an essential item to put on your packing list.

The Kidde 7DCO CO Alarm for caravans and motorhomes

Sources of carbon monoxide poisoning when camping or caravanning

Gas or coal fired cooking appliances, such as BBQ’s, are sometimes bought inside tents or caravan awnings to provide warmth or to cook. Which can fill the space up quickly with carbon monoxide gas, a by-product when burning a fossil fuel. The gas then renders the occupants unconscious and death can occur as a result.

Carbon monoxide gas can be produced due to faulty, poorly maintained or improper installation of gas appliances in caravans. It is important to ensure fuel burning appliances fitted by a qualified installer. Solid fuel appliances must be maintained and serviced annually by a reputable, registered engineer.

Carbon monoxide detectors for camping and caravanning

If you have already fitted a CO detector, ensure that you carry out your pre-holiday safety checks. This should include checking or replacing the batteries and testing smoke, heat and CO alarms. It is also advisable to check when your alarms need replacing. Sensors in these types of alarms become less effective over time and will need to be replaced after 10 years.

Not all carbon monoxide alarms are suitable for use in caravans or motorhomes. Choosing a suitable alarm is important because if the CO alarm you have isn’t recommended for use in camping environments, you may not be alerted to dangerous levels of CO gas. Choose an alarm that is:

  • Kitemarked to British Standard BS EN50291-2
  • Certified for use in caravans
  • Suitable for wall mounting
  • Battery operated
  • CE marked

Concerns over fire safety for e-bikes and e-scooters

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of electric powered bikes and scooters being purchased. Along with the number of publicly available e-bikes and e-scooters this has created concerns over fire safety. The reports of fires starting has increased, usually when the battery is being charged, raising a number of concerns of the quality of some of the bikes and scooters available to buy.

While in general the benefits are clear; speed of travel (compared to walking), convenience, reduced environmental impact compared to other modes (such as cars) and reduced transport costs. It is likely that in time, privately owned e-scooters would be legal to use on public highways and play a role in future urban transport. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the bike or scooter that you are buying is of good quality.

Things to consider before making a purchase

  • Do your research, look online or in store to see which e-bikes and e-scooters have had good reviews and the ones that haven’t so you can make an informed choice on the best one to buy within your budget.
  • Buy from a reputable retailer for all the components, including battery pack and charger.
  • When purchasing replacements parts, ensure these are purchased from the same manufacturer.
  • Register the product with the manufacturer – to be notified quickly of any safety issues or recalls.
  • Be cautious if buying second-hand, refurbished or converted bikes. It can be hard to establish reliability, whether it is counterfeit or genuine, and whether they meet proper UK standards. Look for CE or UKCA marking.

Tips for safer charging of batteries

  • Do not store or charge batteries in communal areas, especially if they form part of the escape route.
  • If the battery is hot after use, allow it to cool before putting on charge.
  • Do not overcharge the battery – check the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Do not cover chargers or battery packs when charging as this could lead to overheating and possibly fire.
  • Keep batteries out of direct sunlight.
  • Do not overload sockets or extension leads – ensure the extension lead is suitably rated for what you are using it for.
  • Do not charge batteries overnight or while you are away from home. If a fire should start you will be alert and aware.
  • Regularly check your batteries and chargers, and do not use them if there are any signs of damage; replace them immediately.
  • If you regularly recharge batteries, or have several on charge at once, consider installing a Lithium-Ion Battery Containment Safe, or ask your landlord for one.

Warning signs of danger to look out for

  • Heat – it is normal for batteries to generate some heat when charging or in use. If it feels extremely hot to the touch, stop charging straight away.
  • Bulging or leaks – a common sign of a battery failing is bulging or swelling. If you see this you should stop using it immediately.
  • Noise – failing lithium batteries can sometimes make hissing or cracking sounds.
  • Smell – a strong or unusual smell from the battery could be a sign that it is failing.

Holiday Home Owners Must Now Record Fire Risk Assessments

From the 1st October 2023, new legislation came into effect that states it is now a legal requirement for all businesses, including holiday home owners, to record a fire risk assessment.

Does my holiday home need a fire risk assessment?

If you have a small let property (that is not let as a principal residence), then the law applies to you. You need to ensure that a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) is carried out. Plus, you must also keep records of the FRA so that these can be checked.

You can complete one yourself, but you should read through the guidance notes carefully and understand the implications. If you do not feel confident to complete one then you can employ the services of a fire risk assessor. They will go through the potential risks and findings with you so you know what actions you need to take. 

How do I carry out a fire risk assessment?

You will need to look at your property and identify all the things that could be a fire risk. Look at how to reduce those risks and quickly alert the occupants of danger. The fire escape routes should be maintained to allow guests to safely evacuate.

The main areas of risk that will need to be looked at are:

  • Electrical installations and equipment
  • Smoking
  • Arson
  • Heating
  • Cooking
  • Housekeeping
  • Furniture and Furnishings
  • Contractors
  • Dangerous Substances

It is also important to think about the type of guests you will have in your property. The very young and old or people with a physical, visual or auditory impairment may need additional equipment to alert them of danger.

What fire safety equipment does my holiday home need?

Recent guidance from the UK Government outlines recommendations to protect guests from the risk of fire in your holiday accommodation. Some of the changes/improvements that have been identified may require the services of a third party. Qualified contractors may be needed to carry out work on, for example, fire detection and alarm systems, fire-resisting doors, and fire protection systems.

It is important that you ensure that contractors are competent to carry out the work, as the ultimate responsibility for compliance of their work with fire safety legislation rests with you.

Remember, as holiday home owners, taking the time to carry out and act on your fire risk assessment protects you, your guests, your premises and your business.

How often do I have to check for fire risks?

It is good practice that between lets you check the property and go through each of the main areas to ensure there is no damage to electrical appliances. Also, check if any fire safety equipment has been removed or damaged as you will need to replace these before you can let out the property again.

Gas boilers should be checked annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer. If you have open fires or log burners these should be swept annually especially before their first use as the weather turns cooler.

A fire risk assessment should be carried out annually. However, if there has been substantial building work or if there has been a fire then it will be necessary to do this before letting out the property again.

Read our guide ‘Fire safety for Holiday Lets‘ for more information about keeping your guests safe.