TV soap star backs National Grid's gas safety campaign for students


James, whose Hollyoaks character John Paul McQueen suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in an episode of the hit TV series, is backing National Grid's campaign to help students avoid a similar fate and to tell them what to do if they smell gas. 

And to get students interested, the drive to raise awareness of the issue includes a competition in which students can win a year's rent money.

Recent research carried out by National Grid found that over 70% of students would not know what to do if they had a gas escape.  Nearly 50% did not know how to spot a faulty boiler.  So, as the new term begins and around 450,000 new students arrive at university and college - many moving away from home for the first time - National Grid is reminding them of the importance of gas safety.

James explained: "After taking part in last year's story line where my character was overcome by carbon monoxide, it got me thinking about the importance of recognising the signs of carbon monoxide and what to do if you smell gas.

He added: "This time of year young people head off to university, many of them moving into rented accommodation.  With so many of my mates at Uni, I don't want them to end up in the same position as my character John Paul.   I think it is vital they know what to do and who to call if they smell gas.

Students are advised to remember these five simple rules if they smell gas:

  • Do not smoke or light matches
  • Do not turn electrical switches on or off
  • Open door and windows
  • 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)
  • Call the free 24 hour national gas emergency number 0800 111 999* whether the smell is inside or outside the property.
    * Calls are recoded and may be monitored.

Students also need to know how to recognise a faulty gas appliance which could be leaking deadly carbon monoxide, which unlike natural gas has no smell.  They should check the landlord has had yearly checks on all gas appliances, and ask to see a safety certificate to show the appliances are in good working order.  If the pilot light blows out easily, or if there is a lazy yellow orange flame instead of a blue flame, these are warning signs and the appliance needs to be checked.

National Grid has joined forces with The Independent newspaper's leading student website 'Independent Students' to help get the message across. For simple advice and information click here:

A series of student radio, online and mobile phone promotions are also underway. For a chance to win** a year's free rent worth up to £3500, text 'Grid' to 80231 and we'll send you a web link that brings safety advice straight to your mobile phone. 

**terms and conditions apply

Jon Butterworth, National Grid operations director, said:  "This is all about the power of action. Following the carbon monoxide story line on Hollyoaks last year, we received many calls about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and we decided to take action by warning students about the risks.

By making students aware of the signs of carbon monoxide and what to do if they smell gas, National Grid's safety campaign will prove that simple actions can save lives.

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, 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.

Key findings from the research:

  • 72% do not know what steps to take in the event of a gas leak
  • Over half (54%)of respondents would not know who to call if they had a gas escape
  • 42% do not know how to turn off their gas, electricity or water from the mains supply
  • Over a third (40%) believe that it is the landlords responsibility for the safety of student accommodation; just under a third (32%) believe it is the universities
  • Only 20% have checked / will be checking that a CO alarm (audible) is present in their accommodation
  • 48% would ask their landlord to fit a smoke alarm if it wasn't present
    • 40% would ask for a fire alarm                           
    • but only 10% would ask for a CO alarm
  • Almost 50% do not know the signs of a faulty gas appliance
    • Black marks or brownish yellow stains around the appliance, yellow/orange lazy flame, a pilot light that blows out easily, excessive condensation
  • The top 3 reasons for choosing university accommodation are: rent (90%), location (82%) and quality of the area (63%)
  • 18% chose accommodation if a gas safety certificate is available from landlord
  • 11% chose accommodation if CO alarms were fitted

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