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Coronation Streetís Jennie McAlpine hopes deadly gas threat storyline will save lives

Coronation Streetís Christmas and New Year carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning storyline could do more than keep viewers on the edge of their seats. It could also save their lives. While the storyline is focused on a natural gas powered appliance, the message is important to LPG householders.

Millions of Coronation Street fans will see popular character Fiz Brown, played by Jennie McAlpine, 28, suffer from deadly CO poisoning, caused from a faulty gas boiler. Tyrone Dobbs, played by Alan Halsall, unlawfully tries to fix Fiz’s boiler and could face prosecution because he is not on the Gas Safe Register. Fiz will be found unconscious on New Year’s Eve, after suffering the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which she mistakes for flu.

The scenes mirror real-life deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning in the UK every year. Known as the ‘silent killer’ because you can’t see it, taste it or smell it, CO is produced when gas appliances are not working properly – either because they have been fitted badly or poorly maintained. In the last year, 50 people have died from CO poisoning and more than 4,000 have been affected.

Jennie McAlpine hopes the storyline will help raise awareness of the silent killer and stop people from having illegal gas work carried out in their homes.

“Unfortunately what happens to my character is not a rare occurrence in real life. Carbon monoxide is deadly and it’s important that as many people know about it as possible. That’s why we have worked closely with experts at Gas Safe Register to make sure we portray all of the symptoms and dangers correctly. The Register told us about lots of instances where people have used a friend or someone recommended to them to work on their gas appliances and this has resulted in life threatening consequences. I hope this storyline brings the issue to everyone’s minds and that we can help to save lives.”

Every year a quarter of a million illegal gas jobs are carried out by people, like Tyrone’s character, who do not have the skills or the qualifications to work on gas appliances. Paul Johnston, Gas Safe Register’s chief executive said: “We know that money may be tight, so it’s understandable that people ask around for recommendations and get friends to help out in the hope of getting a cheaper job done. However, what people fail to realise is just how dangerous gas can be in the wrong hands. Badly fitted and poorly maintained gas appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and CO poisoning, so it’s not worth the risk.”

Paul continued: “It’s great that ITV is working with us to raise awareness of gas safety. CO poisoning, as experienced by Fiz, is a problem because it creates symptoms that mirror more common everyday ailments like flu, a sickness bug or food poisoning. Recongising the six main symptoms could save your life. If there are high levels of CO this can cause loss of consciousness and it can kill quickly with no warning. Our advice is to only use a Gas Safe registered engineer when having gas work done and to get your appliances regularly checked to make sure they are safe.”

Despite the dangers posed by CO poisoning, 43 per cent of the public do not get their gas appliances checked regularly and one in 10 has never had any checks.

To avoid falling victim to dodgy gas work like Fiz, follow Gas Safe Register’s tips:

Only use a Gas Safe registered engineer to fix, fit or maintain your gas appliances – it’s the law and will keep you safe. Recognise the six symptoms of CO poisoning. These include headaches, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness. Don’t assume your gas appliances are safe – get these checked and serviced regularly to ensure they continue to work properly. As a second line of defence buy an audible carbon monoxide alarm. This will alert you to high levels of CO in your home. You can buy an alarm from £15 at a DIY store, supermarket or from your energy company.

For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning and to find a Gas Safe registered engineer in your area call0800 408 5500 or visit www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk.