I was talking to a holidaymaker the other day about his holiday home. Like many thousands of Britons, he and his wife have invested in a property abroad, to provide them with that bolt-hole or with rental income when they are not using the property. Like all property owners they work at maintaining their property so that they can deliver a high standard for themselves or their visitors.
In describing their property, tell me that they asked a local builder (who also happens to be British and living abroad) to take out an old floor and install a concrete floor.
What happens next is remarkable but also displays how the actions and responsibility of these home-owners clearly went some way to save this builder's life!
Whilst working in the property, the builder decided that he had to use a petrol-driven generator. He placed this generator in the room that he was working in.
Whilst the generator was operating he had felt a little strange and described how his head made him feel; he told them that he thought that he was suffering with the effects of alcohol or drugs.
A short while later, he heard an alarm in the house - it was a Carbon Monoxide Alarm.
This alarm was in a room on the first floor, so we can assume that because the alarm went off, the levels of Carbon Monoxide must have been very high!
The builder went to investigate the alarm and recognised it was a Carbon Monoxide Alarm.
He then did something quite remarkable; he took it downstairs and placed the alarm outside. He then returned to the room he was working in, opened the windows - he could not open the shutters - and carried on working with the generator still running!
Clearly there was some fresh air getting in the room and he described how his head did not feel right for a few days after this incident!
The holidaymaker was horrified when he heard the story and gave very firm instructions to the builder about the danger he had placed himself in by using the generator inside and ignoring the Carbon Monoxide Alarm!
This builder is a very lucky person indeed, but for the alarm, it is likely that he would have been overcome by fumes and quite possibly could have collapsed and died! He was even luckier that he did not do so after he opened the windows and removed the alarm from the house!
This holidaymaker is clearly quite responsible in placing the correct warning devices in his holiday home, but what this story reveals is the complete lack of information and awareness of a real danger, which in the UK, in my opinion, is down to a lack of interest shown by many UK politicians on this important issue; compare and contrast the actions of EU Members of Parliament and the EU Commission - whilst the latter still have some way to go, at least the work is moving in the right direction!
When I think of the large number and types of holiday properties in the UK, I also reflect upon a Westminster debate which is so dominated by the fuel and leisure lobbies, that politicians make little or no progress, delivering only slow-burning initiatives without the force of Regulation. Those who offer a counter view are often side-lined in the 'Westminster two-step'!
There is no question in my mind; the danger for domestic and holiday properties is real and it will need a determined lobby of victims, survivors, activists and real industry partnership, to develop a long overdue set of Consumer Protections and Enforcement, and at its minimum, a Pan-European Public Information Campaign on Carbon Monoxide!