Firefighters have urged the public to be more careful with phone and tablet chargers after two fires started thought to have been caused by faults, which were switched on but not connected to devices in both cases.
As technology has evolved to become more and more integrated into modern life, our houses are now full of these low-voltage power supplies that charge everything from laptops, tablets, phones and even e-cigarettes that we often forget they are there, plugging our electronics in at night and removing them in the morning.
While they don’t have an item connected to them they still pose a risk as they still draw current and still generate an amount of heat. As well as these risk factors, thousands of cheap counterfeit items, many even without CE markings, have flooded the market via the internet and some offline retailers.
In the past 6 months, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service have attended two separate fires both causing significant damages but fortunately no injuries and caused them to issue the following warning.
Tim Owen from North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “These incidents highlight the danger of electrical fires – they can strike anytime, anywhere.
“Never leave items on charge or unattended for long periods – and ensure the plug to the charger is switched off even if it’s not connected to your phone/ electrical item. Never mix and match chargers – always use the charger supplied.
“Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions and guidance when using electrical items and turn off and unplug them before you go to bed.”
He added: “Our advice is to be as prepared as possible in the event of fire, by ensuring that working smoke alarms are fitted in your home and that you have clear escape routes to enable you and your family to exit your home as quickly as possible.
“The early warning provided by the smoke alarm during the incident in Saltney ensured the occupant could act quickly and call 999, preventing the fire from spreading.”
Dominic Littlewood, a consumer affairs expert, also revealed how leaving anything on charge for an extended period of time can be incredibly dangerous as it poses a fire risk.
Mr Littlewood said; “it’s not just the fact that we’re charging our phones for hours that should cause concern, but also where we’re putting them.”
Dom strongly advices against people sleeping with their phones in bed, as people place their devices under their pillow so they can hear their alarm clock in the morning.
Doing so could pose a fire risk – with phone batteries heating up while charging, and potentially setting fire to bed sheets and linen.
Instead, Dom says we should place our phones on a saucer, because that way if it gets hot, the china won’t catch alight and we are protected.
Businesses should also be cautious and control the risk as many of these items power network equipment that is left on 24/7 by performing regular PAT testing, keeping server rooms cool and well ventilated and by using a fire alarm system that will identify the area that any fire starts in.
This is especially true where you have minimal control over who plugs what into your sockets – such as hotels and B&Bs. All businesses should have a policy on staff bringing in appliances from home to control the risk further. This could be as simple as making an appliance available for PAT testing or getting the items visually inspected by a competent person to ensure it is marked for CE compliance.
Emergency lighting systems will help people get out safely in the event of a fire and should be fitted in all HMO’s and commercial properties that are used outside regular working hours, or that have rooms larger than 8m2 with no direct daylight. To ensure they work when called upon a regular programme of emergency lighting testing is needed to comply with BS5266.