How to protect yourself against deadly CO on holiday

New research reveals that millions of families are unknowingly taking risks with their lives, exposing themselves to carbon monoxide gas leaking from gas cookers, BBQs and heaters used inside their tent or caravan. CORGI HomePlan offers advice on how to protect yourself against deadly CO on holiday.
CO alarm webCORGI HomePlan is campaigning for greater awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide facing campers and caravanners as they head off on summer holidays.
The survey of 2,000 holidaymakers by CORGI HomePlan revealed a worrying lack of understanding about the risk that campers and caravaners are taking, using appliances that emit the deadly fumes in confined areas.
45% of people cook in their tent or awning, one in five have used a fuel burning appliance to heat their tent and a staggering 17% of people have brought a charcoal or gas BBQ inside the tent.
Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas created when fuel doesn’t burn properly. Undetectable by smell, sight or taste it can quickly spread in a confined area – yet the CORGI HomePlan research showed more than a quarter of people (28 per cent) surveyed believe that you can smell it, while almost one in 10 believe you can taste it. Almost one in two (43 per cent) do not know how the gas is created.
CORGI HomePlan warns that people are not applying the same levels of checks to their camping appliances as they do in their home – yet the effects of a carbon monoxide leak in a smaller, confined space makes them even more deadly.
One in ten surveyed didn’t know that appliances burning with a yellow (rather than blue) flame would give cause for concern.
Early symptoms of CO poisoning involve headaches, fatigue and nausea before victims become unconscious, leading to long term brain damage and effectively suffocating the victim through oxygen deprivation. However of those surveyed, many couldn’t recognise the symptoms, with some expecting to experience blurred vision (30%), cough (22%), streaming eyes (9%) or stomach pains (6%).
The roll call of recent tragedies involving carbon monoxide in holiday resorts makes horrific reading.

  • In January this year, retired couple Nan and Francie O’Reilly were found dead in their static caravan at a holiday park in Northern Ireland after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • In 2013, John Cook, 90, wife Audrey, 86, and 46-year-old daughter Maureen were found dead in a caravan in Camborne, Cornwall.
  • In nearby Devon the same summer, Bethan O’Brien, 20, died from CO poisoning while camping in Devon after a stove was left burning inside her tent.
  • In May 2012, 14-year-old Hannah Thomas-Jones died at a campsite in Bucknell, Shropshire, when a portable barbecue was placed in her tent to keep her warm.
  • Also in 2012, six-year-old Isabelle Harris from Gosport died in similar circumstances.

Although more than half (51%) of British homeowners now have a carbon monoxide detector in their home, just 13% of Brits are applying the same safety rules when they head under canvas.
CORGI HomePlan is urging campers to make a carbon monoxide detector an essential component of their safety kit, along with a fire extinguisher, emergency lighting and first aid kit.
Mark Leslie, CEO of CORGI HomePlan, comments: “People leave their worries at home when they go on holiday and are not applying the same safety rules as much as they would in everyday life.
“Our research has shown only 13 per cent of people have ever had their camping and caravanning gas appliances serviced, despite owning these items for more than four years, on average. This compares with 54 per cent of people who have their domestic gas appliances serviced annually. Even this number is low, however, as every gas appliance needs regular servicing to ensure it is operating safely.
“Cooking appliances should only be used in well ventilated spaces and never taken indoors afterwards, even if they are cold to the touch. By packing a simple CO detector in your luggage and setting it up in your tent or holiday caravan, it leaves you free to enjoy a worry-free holiday.”
Chris Bielby, chairman of the Gas Safety Trust, comments: “There have been a decreasing number of fatalities from carbon monoxide connected to piped natural gas over the last 20 year thanks to the actions taken by government and industry alike. We have been therefore dismayed at the emerging trend of fatalities and injuries relating to misuse of barbecues and gas stoves whilst camping.”
Recent research by the Gas Safety Trust discovered more than a third of people who have been to festivals in the last two years would take a barbecue or gas stove into a tent after use.
The top tips for CO safety are:

  • Don’t use a barbecue inside a tent, awning, caravan or motorhome.
    The smouldering coals of a barbecue release poisonous carbon monoxide (CO), which can kill
  • Never use a barbecue as a heater. Barbecues should be for outside use only
  • Remember – barbecues give off carbon monoxide during use, and may continue to do so for some while after use.
  • Do not move a barbeque into a confined space until it is extinguished and has cooled down. NEVER use a lit or extinguished (but still warm) barbeque as a source of heating in a tent or awning
  • Don’t cook inside your tent or awning as there may be inadequate ventilation and there’s also the risk of fire
  •  Always ensure there is adequate ventilation when using the caravan/motorhome cooker
  • Check there are no obstructions covering ventilators
  • Never use a gas, petrol or diesel-powered generator inside a caravan, motorhome, tent or awning
  • Don’t use any other fuel burning appliances inside a tent or awning such as a refrigerator, gas-powered heaters, lamps etc.
  • It is vitally important to have gas appliances serviced and tested annually
  • A carbon monoxide (CO) alarm is a good idea. Choose a ‘Type B’ alarm that complies with the BS EN 50291 standard, and install it1-3m (measured horizontally) from any potential source of carbon monoxide, but not directly above a source of heat or steam.