PEOPLE could be putting their lives at risk this winter - just by trying to keep warm.
A worrying report today revealed half of electric blankets inspected during recent checks in Blackpool were faulty.
Now residents are being warned to replace blankets, which can pose a serious fire risk.
One elderly couple in the resort have already been killed after a faulty electric blanket triggered a blaze at their home.
Inspections by Blackpool Council quality standards officers on 120 of the winter warmers found half were unsafe.
The most common reason for the failure was age, with faults including exposed wires, defective overheating protection and failing insulation.
Electric blankets have a service life of 10 years, however many found were older, with one more than 30 years old.
Now residents with blankets older than 10 years old are being urged to replace them.
Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member on Blackpool Council with responsibility for quality standards, said: “A well maintained electric blanket is safe to use, but too many people have held on to theirs for much too long, making them unsafe and a danger to their homes and themselves. Anybody with a blanket over 10 years old should replace or remove it, rather than gambling with their lives.
“A new electric blanket only costs around £25, but that’s a more than reasonable price to pay to stay safe.”
The safety message was echoed by fire chiefs.
Sean Hennessey, fire safety manager for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service in Blackpool, said: “In 2001 an elderly couple, Wilfred and Gladys Cardwell, died in a fire in their home in St Vincent Avenue, Blackpool when a worn electric blanket caught fire.
“You don’t have to be a firefighter to recognise it’s better to prevent a fire.”
Fires caused by electric blankets are certainly preventable by ensuring blankets are properly maintained, by replacing them when they are no longer serviceable and using them with manufacturer’s instructions.
The survey came after three test sessions were held by the council where faulty blankets were replaced with new ones thanks to funding from the Electrical Safety Council’s (ESC) Fire Safety Fund.
Enid Burrows, 88, of South Shore, is among the residents who had her blanket replaced.
She said: “It was only four years old, but they found a crack in one of the filaments. The council officers decided it needed to be replaced and I was given another one which was great.”
Age UK said many elderly people relied on electric blankets to keep them warm all year round.
Terri Sawkill, acting chief executive of Age UK based in Abingdon Street, Blackpool, said: “It does concern us to hear the council found so many faulty electric blankets.”