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research has highlighted that up to 45% of CO alarms that are less than a few years old are no longer sensing gas.

This is not a new issue. The flaw remains the same today as it has done for many years as, in spite of developments in new technology, the basic scientific principle behind the sensors themselves has remained unchanged.

A second problem lies with the alarm test button. Pressing the button, as outlined in the manufacturers’ instructions, is no guarantee of safety, as in itself it only tests the battery, buzzer and circuitry in the alarm but does not fully test the CO sensor or prove that contaminated air is reaching the sensor via the casing vents. Effectively the test button can indicate the alarm is working when in fact it may not be, this could include alarms now 20 years old.

Back in 1992, my business was the first to sell domestic CO alarms in volume to the public. At that time there was little interest from wholesalers, landlords, councils or utilities so our products were initially sold through mail order in national newspapers and women's magazines, racking up sales of 50,000 units over a couple of years.

If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds or you suspect a leak:

• Stop using all appliances and evacuate the property immediately - stay calm and avoid raising your heart rate

• Call the gas emergency number on 0800 111 999 to report the incident - or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Gas Safety Advice Line on 0800 300 363

• Do not go back into the property - wait for advice from the emergency services

• Get immediate medical help - you may not realise if you're badly affected by the carbon monoxide and going outside into fresh air won't treat any exposure by itself

Having started my working life as a chemist and after sitting on the first British Standard Committee for CO alarms, it soon became apparent that there was uncertainty surrounding the effective duration of the sensor. This caused significant concerns to our business and ultimately led us to withdraw from the market place.

Rather than turning our back on the issue, we set about finding a solution to the problem and after many years of extensive research and testing, the patented Detectagas CO Alarm Test Kit was born as a universal test kit for use with all domestic CO alarms. Putting a calibrated test gas in an aerosol can was unique and the patented kit which comes in the lid of every can makes it possible to deliver a controlled and sufficient amount of CO to test the sensor effectively without risk of harm.

Detectagas, which has gone on to win multiple awards, checks the battery and sensor in alarms by injecting a specific and safe level of test gas into a specially designed transparent cover which is easily fitted, just for the purpose of the test, over the alarm. The trigger point for a European alarm is 300ppm within three minutes. The test response time is typically less than two minutes after which, on successful completion, the alarm is easily reset. There are 11 tests in one canister of Detectagas, which cost the equivalent of £2 each. Each Dectecatgas kit comes with 11 test record stickers that provide evidence to inspectors that the alarm has been tested. Test Certificate pads are available.




CO alarms can be purchased for around £20, which, as part of a robust safety regime, should be tested on installation and annually thereafter for the life of the alarm. Of course, if the alarm fails in warranty it should be returned to the manufacturer or retailer for credit or replacement.

There is still much to be done when it comes to raising awareness of the dangers of CO, eradicating every potential source of poisoning and making sure alarms work when it counts. In my view, there are some unnecessary omissions and exemptions in the new legislation but it is certainly a huge step in the right direction if we are to put an end to the needless CO, and smoke-related deaths we are still experiencing in this country. TOMORROW’S FM | 33

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