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Students from Cantonian High School came face to face with the CO puppet

Scary puppet grabs youngsters’ attention to help keep them safe from CO poisoning


Students at Cantonian High School had a scary shock when they came face to face with a giant carbon monoxide puppet which visited the Cardiff school.

The deathly-looking puppet made the visit courtesy of a unique partnership between gas distribution network Wales & West Utilities and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD). Student puppeteers from the RWCMD theatre design course designed and made the monster puppet, as part of a brief to look at creative and innovative ways to grab the attention of young people to help explain the very real dangers posed by carbon monoxide (CO).

With hundreds of people injured from CO poisoning and 40 deaths each year in the UK, it’s a serious message that everyone needs to know, but one that can be difficult to get over to teenagers. With the help of the 10-foot puppet, Wales & West Utilities is helping to explain the dangers and how to keep safe to many young people across Wales & the south west of England.

Jaime Falarczyk, Corporate Affairs Manager at Wales & West Utilities said:

“Every year our engineers make around 1,000 visits to properties where evidence of CO is found. We try to raise awareness of this avoidable danger to all gas users in our area, and young people are historically a very difficult audience to engage with. 

“This is where our partnership with the RWCMD has proved invaluable.  The CO puppet they have designed really grabs everyone’s attention and we hope is helping get the safety message across to young people in an engaging and powerful way. It’s so important for people to realise that this is a poisonous gas that doesn’t smell, has no taste and can’t be seen – but it kills 40 people in the UK every year and leaves a further 200 seriously ill.

“CO is emitted by faulty appliances powered by any fuel that burns – gas, coal, oil, petrol and wood. The symptoms from inhaling it include headache, dizziness, vomiting and shortness of breath. Sometimes people have flu-like symptoms, but without the high temperature.”

The RWCMD students and the CO puppet are visiting schools and colleges around Wales and the south west of England, the area in which Wales & West Utilities operates.  As part of the visit the students are holding puppet workshops, where pupils can have a go at making and working their own puppet creations.

Donna Leach, Head of Creative Arts at Cantonian High School added:

“The performance and workshop made for a wonderful afternoon which was enjoyed by all. The workshops were ideal for the classes of year 8 and year 9 drama students who took part and the opportunity to work with puppetry specialists to create and perform with puppets obviously left them feeling very inspired. Wales & West Utilities and the Royal Welsh College should be applauded for developing this project which is a very effective way of engaging with pupils to explore their creativity, whilst also increasing their awareness the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Signs to look out for that show there could be a risk of CO include:

  • Gas appliances burning with a lazy yellow or orange flame instead of crisp and blue
  • Increased condensation inside windows
  • Pilot lights blowing out frequently
  • Soot or yellow/brown staining around or on appliances

To protect against the risk of CO, audible alarms are important but there is no substitute for getting all appliances, powered by any fuel that burns, serviced annually. Householders should also make sure that chimneys and flues are swept annually too.

And if you do suspect CO poisoning, this is what to do:

  • Turn appliances off
  • Open doors and windows
  • Get everyone outside into fresh air immediately
  • Call the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999
  • And if there is a medical emergency, don’t delay, ‘phone 999

More information on carbon monoxide can be found on Wales & West Utilities’ website: www.wwutilities.co.uk.

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