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: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/student-life/accommodation/article941844.html
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.