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Rise of the Neighbourhood (Gas) Watch Revealed

  • Covid-19 brings lasting closeness to communities – 91% intend to stay part of digital neighbourhood groups
  • Despite taking on responsibility for neighbours’ health, gas knowledge gaps may be risking their safety
  • Experts warn of The Ripple Effect – how one innocent gas safety slip can impact a whole street
  • One in five homes in the UK houses dangerous gas appliances

New connections made between neighbours during lockdown show no signs of waning six months on: 91% of householders who joined together to form street WhatsApp and Facebook groups when the pandemic hit, say they’ll keep supporting those in their road or local area in this way, despite restrictions.

Gas Safe Register research1, released today to mark the launch of Gas Safety Week shows that closer communities look set to stay - with more than two in five people (43%) feeling an increased responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their neighbours since the start of lockdown, and over half (57%) saying they are taking better care of themselves specifically so they can do their part to protect the health of their neighbours. In addition, analysis of UK tweets2 from January and August this year shows that references to communication between neighbours have more than doubled.

However, as new inspection data3 from Gas Safe Register reveals, one in every five homes on the average British street houses at least one dangerous gas appliance, experts are calling on neighbours to consider not just the health of those they live nearest to, but also their safety by warning of The Ripple Effect – the devastating impact that one innocent gas safety slip can have on the whole community. 

Speaking from personal experience, Paul Hull, a Gas Safe registered engineer from Surrey, says:

“The Ripple Effect is very real when it comes to the wider impact of unsafe and faulty gas appliances within our own homes and our neighbourhoods. Left unserviced and unchecked year-on-year, appliances such as cookers, fires and boilers, can pose life-threatening risks, which can lead to – in some extreme instances - fires and explosions.
What not many people do not realise, is that such incidences can also have a devastating ripple effect within their communities - from the potential of major structural damages to other homes in the area, to the disconnection of gas supplies for a number of weeks, which can be particularly distressing during the winter months. This is why it’s vital that people get clued up on how to stay gas safe within their homes– to help protect both themselves, their neighbours and loved ones.”

As well as highlighting a heightened sense of neighbourhood connectedness and responsibility, Gas Safe Register’s new study conducted with 2,000 adults also underlines knowledge gaps that risk thwarting people’s desire to keep their neighbours safe.

Everybody needs good neighbours

Since the beginning of lockdown, communities across the country have taken action to support each other, with people significantly more likely than not to:

  • Have noticed neighbours going out of their way to help each other (46% agree vs 27% who disagree)
  • Feel more inclined to look out for their neighbours (44% vs 19%)
  • Have more desire to protect those in their neighbourhood (42% vs 19%)
  • Have spoken more regularly with neighbours than before the pandemic (41% vs 35%)
  • Feel a greater sense of responsibility to their neighbours than before (38% vs 24%)

Knowledge gaps

Despite this newly found and invigorated community spirit, when quizzed on gas safety, Gas Safe Register’s research shows that a lack of awareness of the signs and symptoms of unsafe gas, could be jeopardising people’s ability to responsibly look out for their neighbours. Fewer than one in 10 people (9%) reported being very confident of being able to spot the signs of unsafe gas and, when put to the test, just 5% could correctly identify the six main signs of a dangerous gas appliance. Just a third correctly identified escaping gas as having a rotten egg odour.

Bringing the Ripple Effect to life

To address this, and encourage people to take action to protect both themselves and their local communities, Gas Safe Register has worked with gas safety experts and first responders to create a short film based on real situations, that brings to life the importance of everyone taking responsibility for gas safety in their own homes and wider neighbourhoods.

Set on a quiet suburban street, The Ripple Effect depicts the devastating physical, emotional and psychological impacts that an innocent gas safety slip in any one home can have on the wider neighbourhood.

Be Better Gas Safe Than Sorry this Gas Safety Week

Unsafe gas appliances including gas fires, boilers and cookers can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, gas leaks, fires and explosions. To help communities across the country avoid falling foul of The Ripple Effect, the Gas Safe Register is calling on Brits to harness their new connectedness to share gas safety tips within their local networks this Gas Safety Week.

Gas Safe Register’s six simple steps to help neighbourhoods stay Better Gas Safe Than Sorry are:

  1. Only use a Gas Safe registered engineer to fit, fix and service your appliances. You can find and check an engineer at GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.
  2. Check both sides of your engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card. Make sure they are qualified for the work you need doing. You can find this information on the back of the card.
  3. Know the six signs of carbon monoxide poisoning – headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness.
  4. Check gas appliances for warning signs that they are not working properly e.g. lazy yellow flames instead of crisp blue ones, black marks or stains on or around the appliance and condensation in the room.
  5. Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm. This will alert you if there is carbon monoxide in your home.
  6. Have all your gas appliances regularly serviced and safety checked every year. If you rent your home, ask for a copy of the landlord’s current Gas Safety Record.

Jonathan Samuel, chief executive at the Gas Safe Register says:

“In the current climate, with so much to contend with, it’s easy to understand why people may overlook the importance of having gas boilers and household gas appliances serviced. However, today’s new research really shines a light on the knowledge gaps that still exist when it comes to the awareness of the signs and symptoms of unsafe gas appliances, which could be jeopardising people’s ability to responsibly look out both for their families, as well as their neighbours.
Now, more than ever, it’s important that homeowners up and down the country are not unwillingly playing host to potentially life-threatening risks that could have a ripple effect within their neighbourhood, through faulty gas appliances. I would encourage everyone who does have gas appliances within their home, to book in their annual gas safety check with one our Gas Safe Registered engineers.”

To help your neighbourhood stay Better Gas Safe Than Sorry this Gas Safety Week watch The Ripple Effect now.

1 Research conducted by 3Gem on behalf of the Gas Safe Register. 3Gem surveyed 2,000 respondents who either rent or own a home within the UK (aged 18+) between 6th and 10th July 2020.

2Source: Analysis of over 2,000 UK tweets found that there was an increase by 110% of the use of the phrase ‘my neighbour’ between January and August 2020.

3Source: Findings based on 24,745 UK homes inspected between 1st April 2019 and 31st  March 2020. One in five were found to have unsafe appliances, such as cookers, boilers, and fires.