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Care home fire safety 'horrifying' in London-BBC News, London - Article from July 2011

Dozens of care homes across London have been ordered to improve after failing to achieve even basic fire safety standards, a BBC investigation has learned.

After hospitals, firefighters consider care homes to present the single greatest risk to life of any public buildings. Residents are often elderly, fragile or mentally ill.

But 29 care homes in the city have been discovered not reaching basic standards since 2010.(12 months)

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) issued each of the homes - many of which were breaching the law - with a legal Enforcement Order, compelling them to make changes.

The homes were guilty of breaches including:

  • No fire escape plans

  • No training for staff

  • No marked fire exits

London Assembly Member Jenny Jones said: "It is quite horrifying. In care homes you have some of the most vulnerable people in society - people who can't move around quickly. It's crucial those homes have good fire safety procedures. Fire safety plans, staff training and emergency exits have to be up to date."

Some of the homes had up to eight individual breaches of fire regulations, each potentially lethal.

The importance of clear fire safety plans was underlined by a fire at Rosepark care home in Scotland, which killed 14 people.

'Serious deficiency'

An inquiry into the 2004 tragedy, published this April, found "some or all" of the deaths could have been prevented if the home had a decent fire safety plan in place.

A further "serious deficiency" was the "limited attention" given to how residents would escape a fire

Failings in Lakanal House - where six died - were repeated in the care homes

After the fire, London Fire Brigade LFB found a number of flaws. These included failure to establish an appropriate emergency plan, failure to ensure employees receive adequate safety training and failure to take general fire precautions.

"Fundamentally your role as a landlord is to keep people safe. The fire of course focuses the mind on that."

He continued: "It's a fundamental duty to make sure you're not waiting for Enforcement Notices - not waiting for a problem, but being proactive."

The home has made numerous changes on the advice of the LFB.

Steve Turek, assistant commissioner for the London Fire Brigade, said: "It's important for owners of care homes to take their responsibilities seriously.

He added: "It's important people who are in charge of both care homes and sheltered accommodation understand the importance of their role."

Many of the censured homes had not carried out a legally-required fire risk assessment (FRA) to pinpoint potential dangers.

A 2009 fire at tower block Lakanal House - which did not have an FRA - killed six, and experts say if checks had been done they may have prevented the tragedy.


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