A PENSIONER has stressed the importance of free safety checks carried out in Northumberland after her electric blanket burst into flames during a testing session.
The county council trading standards department carries out the annual checks on elderly people’s blankets in conjunction with Age Concern Northumberland.
Their potential lifesaving value was shown during one of the recent tests, when an electric blanket owned by pensioner Barbara Houlison of Stakeford near Ashington caught fire.
Miss Houlison said she was shocked at what happened as the blanket was only four years old.
“The thought of what could have happened is terrible. Normally I would turn it on and walk away.
“I tried to do the right thing at the end of August when I sent it away to be tested through a recommended service that came with the blanket’s instruction. But it was returned untested because the company was no longer there. It was only a few days later that I noticed the trading standards article in the newspaper and made my appointment.’’
The latest checks were carried out by a specialist engineer last month at venues in south east Northumberland.
Coun Alan Thompson, county council executive member for neighbourhood services, said: “Alarmingly, 55% of the blankets tested were found to be unsafe to use. These figures prove that this type of check is very worthwhile, and we are delighted to see they have been so popular with our elderly residents.’’
Age Concern Northumberland was able to provide replacement blankets for those found to be unsafe.
Health promotions manager Anne Robinson said: “One blanket that a resident brought in for testing was estimated to be 35 years old, and clearly needed to be replaced for safety reasons.”