A critical project is underway to improve the carbon monoxide (CO) safety of people living on boats in London.

The project, partly funded by the CO Research Trust, will be carried out by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) and will involve fire station crews carrying out 1,758 Home Fire Safety Visits (HFSV) tailored to houseboat residents.

The project was launched today by Baroness Finlay and the team from the London Fire Brigade at their Headquarters in Southwark.

The exact number of people living on the rivers and canals of London is unknown. A report by the Greater London Authority in 2014 found there could be as many as 10,000 people. Economic austerity since 2014 would indicate the number is now significantly higher.

The research project will create a clearer picture of the demographics of London’s houseboat population and aims to give a much more informed picture of CO levels on houseboats in London.

Emma Fraser, Project Manager from LFB explains the CO risks to boat owners.

“Boats have small living spaces, much the same size as a small bedsit. However, they are also sealed containers, essential for keeping water out, but also equally effective at retaining gases and fumes. Many boats have multiple potential sources of fire and CO. They may also have multiple engines and appliances for cooking, heating, and lighting. Some of these will be powered on or in use whilst occupants are sleeping.”

Emma continued.

“This project will make houseboat owners more aware of the risks of CO and fire, as well as helping to identify whether there are any trends, such as a seasonal variation in CO levels.”

Baroness Finlay, Chair of the CO Research Trust said.

“CO is known as the silent killer. We breathe in CO like normal air, with no irritation to our noses or throats. Sadly, for many people, they are poisoned by CO before they are even aware. It is vital that projects like this are funded, so that people who are at increased risk of CO exposure, are made aware of the danger.”

LFB Assistant Commissioner Charlie Pugsley said.

“The LFB carries out home fire safety visits across London, prioritising those who are most at risk of fire. Home fire safety visits comprise giving prevention, detection, and escape advice to residents in the event of a fire.

Part-funded by the CO Research Trust, LFB aims to deliver 1,758 home fire safety visits on houseboats over a 12-month period in the London borough of Richmond. Each visit will include tailored advice on fire safety, CO and water safety whilst also providing free smoke and CO alarms, as well as a CO logger. The logger solely records CO levels for a period of one month; it is then sent to Liverpool John Moores University for analysis.”

Charlie continued.

“We are delighted to be part of this exciting project as we are committed to protecting all communities in the capital, including those often forgotten such as those who reside on live aboard boats. This innovative research will not only help us to provide invaluable safety information on fire, CO, and water to residents through our tailored home fire safety visits, it will also collect information on daily and seasonal variations of CO levels in these boats, helping to inform future prevention advice nationally”.


About the CO Research Trust

The CO Research Trust is a registered charity which was established in 2005. The vision of the charity is a world where people are not exposed to carbon monoxide (CO).

For more information please contact

Natalie Fleck

CO Research Trust


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