Annual Report from the Chair of the Board of Trustees

NOV 20, 2013

First of all I would like to apologise for not being with you today but unfortunately my mobility is not good enough to allow me to come.

That said I felt I had to write if only to draw attention to what has been happening this year.   As a charity without funding Carbon Monoxide Awareness has had to rely on postal lobbying and sharing information electronically to continue the work of supporting victims as and when required.   Despite being limited in this way I am still pleased to say that we have been extremely active in one particular general awareness area, that of trying to get people to service their appliances and site their CO alarms properly.

Because of some of the findings of myself and other installers giving us feedback we became concerned that it appeared that over 50% of the installations seen weren’t compliant.   So we went the extra mile and provided certain Fire and Rescue Service trainers with a full set of training notes identifying the relevant standards involved, how to select alarms, where to site alarms, where not to site alarms and why they should not be sited in the areas identified ending with a warning not to use black spot alarms and some general information as to why we had undertaken this work.

We submitted some of the work we did on guidance leaflets to Lee Greenham of COGDEM to ensure that the manufacturers point of view was involved and his input was a welcome addition to what had been done.    One of the things Lynn was somewhat surprised about however was that despite the fact that the standards, which as most of you may know were re-written and the amended documents published in 2010, had been out for two years some of the manufacturers were not identifying that their products were in compliance with the current standard but still carried reference on the packaging to the old standard.   This now appears to have been remedied and one manufacturer even sent us samples of their new packaging to prove it.

Our other biggest success this year has been our President receiving an invitation to attend an inquest held into the death of a lady from carbon monoxide poisoning.   This lead to the charity being asked to assist in the provision of information to the court on carbon monoxide poisoning.  

Following this inquest the Coroner conducting it submitted a Section 28 letter to Government which would appear to have focused some attention on the matter.   Our President also lobbied several politicians in both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly which resulted in questions being asked in both Houses what support was being offered to Lynn and Carbon Monoxide Awareness during the National Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, what provision was available to support victims of the silent killer, what treatment was available for the victims.   Most of the answers to the questions were the responses you would expect from a civil servant or some aide or other researcher who has had nothing whatsoever to do with dealing with victims or actually knows what goes on in the real world.   That aside we were enormously grateful to those who supported us by asking the questions as well as to the significant number of MPs, MSPs and Welsh Assembly Members who have pledged their support on line for Lynn and National CO Awareness Week.

We have also been asked to identify a recipient for funding from a golf tournament to be held in America in memory of a friend who died from carbon monoxide poisoning.  We nominated Lindell Weaver who has been at the cutting edge of the development of processes to improve the diagnosis, treatment and management of cases involving carbon monoxide poisoning as well as being a staunch supporter of Lynn and the work she is trying to do.

Despite all of this good news there is some really bad news to go with it.   At the end of last year Chris Bielby was at great pains to announce that there had only been one fatality due to gas in the previous year and there were a number of meetings at which people were congratulating each other on a job well done. IGEM, the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers, held a conference earlier this year which was hailed a great success by those attending some of whom were families or friends of people who had died.  It was even described by one attendee as the first conference to deal with carbon monoxide poisoning from all aspects. Faced with comments like this I am forced to ask myself are we invisible, is what we have been doing for the last eight years all for nothing.  

That said what is of particular concern and has failed to elicit comment from anyone except us is that the death toll this year from carbon monoxide poisoning stands at over 30 the highest this charity has seen for at least a decade and those admitted to hospital approaching 700.   These figures are compiled from press reports so they are common knowledge but obviously not serious enough to warrant comment from those so eager to claim the glory when things go right.  

Baroness Finlay proposed an amendment to the energy bill asking for Fire and Rescue Services to be involved in carbon monoxide incidents as a statutory duty, Baroness Stowell of Beeston in answering commended her for the significant amount of work that had been done in this area but then defended the work done by the Government by citing the various reviews of statutory provisions including Building Regulations but throughout all of this the significant increase in the number of deaths and hundreds hospitalized was never mentioned.

Lynn has conducted more campaigns this year than ever before, her work with Coroners has opened doors that would never otherwise have been opened and the value of her work has been recognized by the Chief Fire Officers Association who now allow their logo to go on all the posters and warning leaflets produced by the charity.    Through the Cosy but Deadly campaign, the Boat Safety campaign, the Site Alarms Properly campaign she has brought together people from all walks of life.   So Lynn may I through the voice of Mr Atkins salute you for not only going the extra mile but taking us along with you.

I’m sure that Nick must be hoarse by now so can I thank you for your kind attention and support and don‘t forget if you do have a spare £10,000 hanging about looking for a home we are short of money hence only this event this year Thankyou.

Tony Brunton.