RoSPA Provides Fire, Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips for Summer Camping

"Rarely does a summer pass without reports of serious burns sustained during camping trips, and sadly we do hear about fatalities from fires that have ripped through tents or caravans, often accelerated due to the explosion of fuel canisters," said Peter Cornall, RoSPA’s head of leisure safety.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is reminding those going camping this summer to keep the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning at bay.

“Fire is a significant risk when you are camping,” said Peter Cornall, RoSPA’s head of leisure safety. “Rarely does a summer pass without reports of serious burns sustained during camping trips, and sadly we do hear about fatalities from fires that have ripped through tents or caravans, often accelerated due to the explosion of fuel canisters. We have also heard about deaths and serious injuries due to suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in tents, including incidents this summer.

“In the excitement of a camping trip and because of unfamiliar surroundings and ways of doing things, accidents can easily happen. But, whether you’re on your summer holidays, camping for a weekend break, or spending time under canvas at a festival, following some simple safety advice means your trip should be memorable for all the right reasons.”

To reduce the risk of fire:

  • Check the rules regarding open fires and barbecues at your campsite; some will not allow them at all and others will restrict them to designated areas.
  • Assess the site before you pitch your tent. Ideally, arrive before sunset so you can see where other campers have had fires, barbecues, stoves, and heaters.
  • Cooking inside a tent is not recommended; even a fire-resistant tent may burn. Be particularly mindful of the risk of fire inside smaller tents with only one exit.
  • Don’t change gas canisters or refuel petrol or meths stoves inside your tent or awning and, if possible, store them outside.
  • Keep matches and lighters in a waterproof container and away from children.
  • Make sure tents are positioned well apart to reduce the risk of fire spreading. Check the rules at your campsite; some recommend that tents are pitched 20 feet apart.
  • For illumination, it is preferable to use torches instead of naked flames such as candles and cigarette lighters, and certainly do not use naked flames inside a tent. Make sure all fires are damped down and that stoves, gas lamps, and barbecues are out before you go to bed.
  • Have a fire escape plan and know where the nearest source of water is.

The burning of all fossil fuels produces carbon monoxide (CO) and there have been deaths and serious injuries from CO poisoning in tents and caravans. Do not use stoves or disposable barbecues (for cooking or warmth) in an enclosed space with poor ventilation. Caravanners should have gas-powered appliances serviced annually and could consider using an audible carbon monoxide alarm inside their caravan.

“RoSPA is keen that the parents and caretakers of young children are aware that many serious accidents involving children on holiday, including drowning, happen on either the first or last day when there are lots of distractions,” Cornall said. “Do ensure that the supervision of young children does not break down during these busy times.”

The last time annual accident figures were collected (in 2002), more than 1,500 people visited Accident and Emergency in the U.K. following an accident involving a tent, tent pole, or peg. Common accidents were people tripping over guy ropes or treading on tent pegs.

See www.rospa.com/leisuresafety/adviceandinformation/leisuresafety/camping-safety.aspx for more camping safety tips.

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