Emergency lighting failed during Shepherd’s Court fire

firetwoOn August 19th there was a fire at Shepherd’s Court on the Charecroft Estate on Shepherd’s Bush Green. Thankfully there were no serious injuries. It was caused by a faulty Indesit tumble dryer. The manufacturers Whirlpool still advise they are safe to use.  But the London Fire Brigade – who don’t give out this sort of warning casually – have urged those with the relevant brands to unplug them and stop using them until the company carries out the modification.

What about the role of the Council, the owners of the block?

I was concerned to hear that during the fire some residents had to escape via the lifts as the lighting on the emergency stairs was not working. There is some dispute over whether the lights were broken or simply inadequate to cope with the smoke – one of the ward councillors, Cllr Adam Connell, understands its the latter. Either way it needs to be sorted out.

Also the fluorescent numbering of staircases should have been visible and was not.

I asked for the most recent Fire Risk Assessment for the building which the Council sent me. The document from October 2015. There was a long list of deficiencies listed in the “Summary of Significant Findings and Action Plan”. Some had been sorted out before the fire but others had not.

Norman Whyte, the Health and Safety Manager for the Housing and Regeneration Department says:

Dear Cllr Phibbs

Thank you for your enquiry, we have looked into the case and can now response as follows:

With regard to the “Summary of Significant Findings and Action Plan” please advise which of the actions specified had been undertaken before the fire took place

The following items from the significant findings were undertaken before the fire at Shepherds Court:

  • The latest five-year electrical test certificate that we have is dated January 2016
  • The lightning protection system test documentation was up to date and the latest certificate is dated April 2016.
  • Ventilation – automatic dampers were fitted to all grills (controlled by smoke detectors and an intelligent fire alarm control panel).
  • Dry riser testing – there is a dry riser testing programme in place. These were used during the fire with 5 hoses taking water from the dry risers and no issues were found during their use.
  • Fire stopping – our fire surveyor didn’t agree that a non-fire rated product was used for fire stopping in the electrical cupboards. Consequently, this product/material was not removed. The work we did carry out made the area even safer than the work recommended as we upgraded the fire doors, door closers and seals to the fire safety cupboard.
  • A suitable testing procedure for emergency lighting is in place, with various testing carried out every month as per the British Standard. The last test before the fire was carried out in July 2016.

     Further general information

The overall risk rating identified in the Shepherd’s Court FRA was tolerable, as defined by the risk rating evaluation within the FRA, any issues identified on FRA’s as high risk are undertaken immediately. The Fire Risk Assessment cycle for communal areas in residential buildings six stories and higher are carried out annually.

The follow on works in the Shepherd’s Court FRA will be progressed together with the fire damage works, which have been scoped by our contractor, a quotation raised and work agreed. We aim to have all the work completed by the end of February 2017.

Yours sincerely

Norman Whyte

Health and Safety Manager

One of the ward councillors Belinda Donovan believes the back stairs lights are still not working properly: “God forbid if there were a fire tomorrow we might have casualties as a result of this non action,” she says.

Chris Took, Chairman of the Charecroft Tenants and Residents Association says:

“The passive smoke system has been boarded up and I am not aware of any automatic valves in the building.

There is a Section 20 notice (PPM0076), issued on 6 January 2014, for AOV Installation and External Louvre Replacement across the Charecroft estate.”

I agree with challenging Whirlpool but as the landlord the Council also needs to take action after this alarming incident.