Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

New law on the fitting of carbon monoxide alarms is not enough, says mum of victim

The mother of a teenager killed by carbon monoxide poisoning believes a new law requiring detectors to be fitted to all new builds “does not go far enough”.

Northern Ireland has led the way in the UK in bringing forward building regulations across all types of appliances which burn fuel.

The law, which came in yesterday, means that alarms must be fitted to any newly built home.

The alarms must also be used when a new or replacement boiler or heater is installed in an existing house.

The new requirement was ushered in by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson who said yesterday that he had promised to address the issue following the death of two teenagers from carbon monoxide poisoning in 2010.

Catherine McFerran said she hopes the changes will help others avoid the loss of a loved one after her son Neil died alongside friend Aaron Davidson at a holiday home in Castlerock two years ago.

The pals, both aged 18, had been staying at the apartment near Coleraine with a third friend, Matthew Gaw, who survived.

The three were found by relatives.

“We don't want anyone else to be in that situation and what we are going through,” Ms McFerran said. “If there had been an awareness it could have been a different story for us and for Neil.”

She welcomed the development but said that more still needs to be done.

“I have to say, I think it’s a very positive step with Northern Ireland taking the lead on this,” she said.

“It’s a good first step but more must be done as this only covers a small proportion of homes.”

The new legislation comes as a UK-wide survey shows that only 39% of homes have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted.

Of those without a detector, 42% said it was because they had smoke alarms, highlighting a level of confusion between the two types of alarms.

Since her son’s loss Ms McFerran has campaigned tirelessly for greater awareness of the dangers, setting up the Gis A Hug Foundation.

“A lot more needs to be done to educate the public on the dangers of carbon monoxide,” she said. “I myself wouldn’t go anywhere without a detector.

“What the foundation does is help raise awareness of the dangers of monoxide poisoning and provides free alarms to the those who can’t afford them.”

Mr Wilson said that individual householders also have a part to play in ensuring safety from potentially deadly gases.

“Ultimately, of course, it is up to individual householders to make sure that appliances are working properly, that flues have been cleaned on a regular basis,” the minister said.

“But we can do something and we have gone as far as, I believe, it is possible for us to go in saying that where a property is being built, where there is going to be an appliance in it which gives off carbon monoxide, then there has to be building regulations that will ensure that there is a carbon monoxide indicator.”

Jim King of the Health and Safety Executive NI welcomed the introduction of the new building regulations.

“Since 2010 HSENI has been promoting two key messages on carbon monoxide safety — have your heat-producing appliances serviced annually and then fit a carbon monoxide alarm as a further line of defence,” he said.

Background

Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson, both 18, died from carbon monoxide poisoning at a holiday home in Castlerock in August 2010. Their families have campaigned tirelessly with their charity, the Gis A Hug Foundation, for greater awareness of the problem as well as providing free detectors to those who can’t afford them.

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