Leading illusionist Damien O'Brien highlights the tricks of gas safety for students


  • Students have a chance to win a year's rent through the National Grid's Student Union on Facebook.
  • The National Grid Student Union on Facebook will host the first ever live Magic Show on 28 October at 7pm.

Leading professional illusionist, 25 year old Damien O'Brien, has teamed up with gas and electricity company National Grid to help teach students the tricks to living safely, ensuring students are aware of gas safety and the risks of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning as they move into their new homes at the beginning of a new university year.

Damien, an up and coming illusionist who recently featured on Penn and Teller Fool Us, knows all too well about the dangers of CO poisoning, having seen one of his close friends almost succumb to it.

The survival tricks come on the back of research revealing students' priorities in choosing their new homes. The study by National Grid found that over a fifth (21%) cited "good access to the pub and nightlife" and over a third (36%) having "a good bedroom" as key reasons for choosing a property.
Perhaps equally unsurprisingly, only 7% rated having a smoke detector as one of their three most important considerations, just 5% looked for a safe, regularly serviced boiler and fewer than 2% said a CO alarm was of prime importance.

54% of students currently in rented accommodation say their boiler does not have the gas safety certificate their landlord should by law provide. A worrying fact when unserviced boilers, significantly increases the danger of CO poisoning and three quarters of students do not have an audible CO alarm.

Almost half (46%) don't recognize light headedness, headaches, nausea, dizziness and shortage of breath as symptoms of CO poisoning, while over 70% don't know the indicators of a potentially faulty gas appliance: a weak yellowy/orange flame, black marks around the appliance and a pilot light that blows out easily.

Add the fact that 88% don't know who to call if they suspect a gas or CO leak, then the potential dangers are obvious. If you smell gas, call the free national gas emergency service on 0800 111 999.

To launch the campaign, Damien spent a day at a student house to produce a series of videos featuring magic tricks and tips on how to survive university life and make sure students know that when it comes to gas safety there are no illusions.

Follow "National Grid Student Union" on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Grid-Student-Union/171066440020 and over the coming weeks, the page will feature a series of videos starring Damien in a real student house, with magical results. Damien said: "Going back to the student house for a day was a genuinely disgusting experience. I wanted to see if I could make the mess disappear or at least give the illusion it was clean.

Students can also win prizes! Damien said: "Students who watch the videos on National Grid Student Union on Facebook can enter via the video player and I will make the rent disappear for a year for one lucky winner. This winner will also take part in the first ever live magic show on Facebook. This will be streamed live onto the National Grid Student Union Facebook page on 28th October at 7pm.

Simple safety tips for students can be found at www.nationalgrid.com/studentsafety, which will also broadcast on student radio and university websites up and down the country.

John Pettigrew, National Grid's chief operating officer for, Gas Distribution, added: "Through this campaign we are hoping to reach thousands of students at the start of the new term. "The information we are providing could save lives as research shows that 54% of students don't have a gas safety certificate for their boiler and 88% don't know who to call if they had a gas leak. We hope as many students as possible will visit the National Grid Student Union on Facebook to get life-saving advice, as well as some tricks from illusionist Damien O'Brien.

Further information about Magician and Illusionist Damien O'Brien can be found athttp://www.damienobrien.com/

Advice for students

What to do if you smell gas

Five simple tips if they smell gas:

  • DO NOT smoke or light matches
  • DO NOT turn electrical switches on or off
  • DO open doors and windows
  • DO turn off the meter at the control valve (UNLESS the smell of gas and the meter are in the cellar, as often this will need a light to be turned on)
  • DO call the free 24 hour National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999* whether the smell is inside or outside the property.

*Calls are recorded and may be monitored.

Carbon monoxide can be produced if:

  • appliances are poorly installed
  • appliances are not working properly
  • appliances are not checked or maintained regularly
  • there is not enough ventilation in a room
  • a chimney or flue gets blocked
  • appliances are installed or maintained by unqualified people

What are the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning?

  • The early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include tiredness, drowsiness, headaches, and chest and stomach pains.
  • Carbon monoxide can kill within a matter of hours and people are most vulnerable to poisoning when they are asleep.
  • There are some outward indications of the presence of carbon monoxide - a fire or appliance may have yellow or orange flames, the pilot light may blow out frequently and there may be soot and stains around the appliance.
  • Gas appliances should be checked on an annual basis by a Gas Safe registered engineer
  • Students should ask their landlord for an annual gas safety certificate to prove the appliances have been checked and are in good working order.

Research - key findings

The research for National Gridwas carried out online by Opinion Matters between 26/08/2011 and 02/09/2011amongst a panel resulting in 1008 Current UK University Students living in rented accommodation.All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

This press release relates to Cadent work.  It does not have Cadent branding on it, due to this press release being published prior to 1st May 2017, when this gas distribution business was part of National Grid’s group of businesses.


Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy.  We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change.  Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency.   Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing. 

Future of Gas: Here at Cadent we support the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. That means we’re backing the introduction of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative to natural gas for the future. We know people love the controllability of gas and, with our network already in place, it makes sense to switch to the lower carbon alternative offered by hydrogen, which we believe can keep homes and businesses warm for generations to come.

Cadent manages the national gas emergency service free phone line on behalf of the gas industry - 0800 111 999*

Cadent Gas Ltd is owned by a consortium of global investors.

*All calls are recorded and may be monitored.

Media contacts

Stephanie van Rosse


07767 337343