LFB finds fire safety issues in over half of care homes
LONDON FIRE Brigade (LFB) has revealed that it has found fire safety ‘failures’ in over half of the care homes it has audited.
In a release, LFB stated that the ‘serious’ failures were found in homes across London by its inspectors, with 177 homes visited to ‘gauge’ the level of fire risk across the city. This ‘one-off’ series of ‘in-depth’ inspections found that one in three premises had ‘inadequate or poorly maintained fire doors’, while there was also ‘widespread’ confusion about fire evacuation strategies. In turn, fire risk assessments (FRAs) were being carried out by people ‘without the proper skills and experience’.
Another finding was that roofs were being ‘omitted’ from FRAs, despite roof voids often increasing the ‘spread and severity’ of fires, with LFB ‘so concerned’ that it has written to every care home in London ‘demanding’ that they ‘urgently review’ FRAs, emergency plans and staff training. It cited a 2017 fire at a home in Cheshunt that happened after the blaze spread through voids in the roof, allowing it to ‘quickly engulf’ the whole building.
That fire saw crews from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and LFB attend, with firefighters rescuing 33 residents having found them in ‘many rooms’, with many ‘too frail to move themselves to safety’. Dan Daly, assistant commissioner of LFB, commented: ‘Over half the care homes we inspected had to make improvements to their fire safety arrangements despite them housing some of London’s most vulnerable residents.
‘My main concern is that this audit is only the tip of the iceberg. Care home owners need to urgently review their fire risk assessments and ensure their staff know how to safely evacuate their residents, especially those who are immobile. If you were placing your loved one into the care of others, you would expect them to be safe but for too many people, the very roof they are sleeping under could put them at risk.
‘To make a proper fire risk assessment, you need to properly understand how fire can travel and develop, otherwise you’re just guessing your safety plan. You wouldn’t let an under qualified surgeon operate on you, so why allow someone without the proper experience to undertake your fire risk assessment. We sincerely urge care homes to take note of the findings in this report, and learn lessons for future inspections.’
Debbie Ivanova, deputy chief inspector of adult social care for the London region at the Care Quality Commission, added: ‘It’s the responsibility of those in charge of running care homes to ensure the right fire protection measures are in place in order to keep people safe. Where we find areas of concern, we share these with the local fire service – as the enforcer of fire safety in care homes – and include in our published inspection reports.
‘These findings will influence whether we judge a service to be outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate. We know that good care home providers invest in proper and regular fire training for their staff, ensure that emergency plans are kept up-to-date and carry out frequent checks of premises and equipment. But as the London Fire Brigade’s findings make clear, good fire safety isn’t the norm everywhere.
‘I encourage all care home providers to make full use of these findings so they can make continual improvements that will help keep everyone safe.’