Fire Alarms UK News February 2020 Compiled By Elite Fire Security of Bristol and Bath
Fire alarms always a very newsworthy topic, unfortunately, often for the wrong reasons. Here is a roundup of the latest news (February 2020) concerning commercial fire alarms in the UK, including a Manager bring imprisoned for his part in installing fire alarms at Grenfell Tower.
Manager at the firm responsible for installing fire alarms at Grenfell Tower is jailed for six years after he took £800,000 in bribes from subcontractors in return for securing them work
A former manager at the company responsible for installing fire alarms at Grenfell Tower has been jailed for six years for taking £800,000 in bribes, reports the Dialy Mail.
Lee Wylie, an £88,000-a-year divisional director at Lakehouse Contractors Ltd, told sub-contractors they needed to pay £100 sweeteners to guarantee jobs or he would go elsewhere, Southwark Crown Court heard.
He helped secure contracts for Richard Lee, 35, Mark Middleton, 51, and Stephen Ellis, 51, while Leslie Ratty, 68, laundered tens of thousands of the corrupt payments through bank accounts.
Wylie, 47, also received £10,000 in bribes from Costas Polycarpous, 42, whose firm Polytech supplied emergency lighting, fire alarms and hard-wired smoke alarms to Lakehouse.
Prosecutor John Hardy said although Lakehouse had supplied the fire alarms at Grenfell this case is ‘wholly unconnected to the tragic events’ which took place.
Wylie, of Basildon, Essex, used the money to splash out on luxury holidays, cars, watches, and even a specially made grandfather clock.
He admitted bribery and theft and was sentenced to six years of imprisonment.
A whistleblower who reported fraud within Lakehouse in 2013 sparked an investigation by Hackney Homes, which provides social housing for the London borough.
The wrongdoing was referred by the council to the Metropolitan Police in July 2014.
Lakehouse had been sub-contracted by Hackney Homes to carry out a fire risk assessment on properties owned by the council.
In turn, they sub-contracted companies including Spicers Carpentry, run by Ellis and Lee, and MJM Ltd, run by Middleton.
Government relaunches Fire Kills campaign
Adverts launched this month will highlight everyday fire hazards and urge the public to install smoke alarms on every floor.
The Fire Kills campaign has returned to highlight the everyday accidents that can cause a fire in your home.
Launching today, the revamped campaign will highlight that candles, cigarettes, portable heaters and overloaded extension leads can lead to fires in any room of a home.
While the majority (90%) of homes now have at least 1 working smoke alarm, 23% of people say they never test them.
Minister for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service Kit Malthouse said:
It’s easy to make mistakes. Being alert to hazards after a long day at work, or with distractions at home is never easy.
This is why this campaign is so important – it reminds us of how we can prevent the unthinkable.
At the very least, if you do nothing else, please buy smoke alarms for your home so you and yours can sleep easy.
The campaign, developed with the help of the National Fire Chiefs Council also urges the public to test their smoke alarms at least once a month. The campaign is also partnering with other organisations, including Dementia UK and retailer B&Q, to help spread the message.
Home Office analysis has found you are around 8 times more likely to die in a fire if you do not have a working smoke alarm in your home. Existing research also indicates that some people are more at risk of fire than others, such as older people and people with disabilities.
Susan Drayton, Clinical Lead of the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline at Dementia UK:
We are pleased to be a part of this campaign which will help to raise awareness of fire risks to some of the most vulnerable people in society. In cases where people have been diagnosed with dementia, loss of memory could cause food to be left on the stove for too long, for example. Sensory and spatial awareness may change too leaving people with the dementia unaware of fire hazards, or not realising that a fire has started in the first place.
Whilst installing a smoke alarm can help to mitigate against these risks, people and families with dementia can also contact their local fire service who can provide a free home fire safety visit to identify any hazards.
The latest Home Office analysis of fires has also found that most accidental fires start with cooking appliances (48%), for example, by something flammable being left too close to the cooker, such as a tea towel.
To support Fire Kills, B&Q will be providing dedicated spaces in its stores for selling smoke alarms, which will highlight the campaign. B&Q will also be linking customers to Home Office advice on its website and encouraging staff to share this guidance with customers.
A B&Q spokesperson said:
We’re pleased to be part of the Home Office’s Fire Kills campaign for 2020. Alongside the Home Office, we want to encourage customers to ensure that essential measures such as working smoke alarms and regular alarm testing are put in place to keep their home safe.
It is recommended that smoke alarms are fitted on every floor of your home and tested at least once a month.
Neil Odin, Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council National Prevention Committee, said:
NFCC has worked closely with the Home Office on the Fire Kills campaign. We believe every home should have at least 1 working smoke alarm on every level, which are regularly tested – no home should be unprotected.
It is essential people are aware of fire risks in their home and we encourage people to fit smoke alarms in the rooms they use most. They should also take preventative measures to keep themselves and their families safe. This includes being aware of household risks such as electrical items, candles and white goods, and make sure they plan an escape route which is practised with people living within the home.”
Derby businessman put up workers in ‘death trap’ rooms
A Derby businessman had so few fire prevention measures at a property he leased in the city centre the occupants would have died should a blaze have broken out, reports Derbyshire Live.
Bashdan Kadier, who owns a number of different businesses, had barricaded potential escape routes shut at the address in Derwent Street.
There were absolutely no working smoke alarms in any of the rooms, no fire doors, combustible material was stored in the building and there was even a propane gas cylinder which could have exploded if it came into contact with flames.
The 37-year-old, of Alvaston, ran a car wash business on a former garage forecourt next to the Brewery Tap pub.
He had at least three of the car wash workers living in rooms above the former Cob Stop sandwich bar overlooking the forecourt.
Now he has been handed a suspended prison sentence and warned to check that suitable measures are in place at his other businesses.
Laura Hackney, prosecuting at Derby Crown Court, said: “All but one of the exits were barricaded and in my submission in the event of a fire, anyone at the property would have succumbed to the smoke without even waking.”
Miss Hackney said fire officers visited the property on March 28 last year.
She said the only way into it was via a roller door that used to be used to access the former Cob Stop.
Miss Hackney said: “The premises were not complaint with any fire regulations. There were no working smoke alarms, no fire doors, no emergency lighting, gaps in the ceiling, means of escape were lacking and there was combustible material on site. There was even a compressed gas cylinder on site.”
She said fire inspectors found three people at the property when they went to inspect it but believe as many as five may have been living in the bedrooms.
The hearing was told his guilty pleas were entered on the basis that he barricaded exits shut due to a number of break-ins at the property.
Alex Radley, mitigating, said: “He did not grasp the reality of the importance of the situation.
What did the judge say?
Shaun Smith QC handed him a six-month jail term, suspended for two years.
He also ordered him to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and to pay £7,375.52 costs.
Judge Smith said: “I don’t believe for one moment you were deliberately ignoring fire precautions because if I did you would be going to prison.”
“You were ignoring them because you were not giving them any thought.
“You did put people potentially in danger and if you are going to have people working there and particularly if they will be living there it is very, very important that they are able to get out in the event of a fire.
“I hope this acts as a way of your sorting things out here and at the other businesses because if you don’t then you will be going to prison.”
Following the case, group manager Steve Wells, from Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Had a fire broken out in this building, due to the fire alarm not working, people sleeping upstairs would not have had sufficient warning allowing them time to get out safely.”
“In addition to the lack of a fire alarm, even if occupants had become aware of a fire, they would have faced numerous obstacles and challenges in trying to escape safely.”
“The fire and rescue service will consider formal action against anyone found to be in breach of fire safety regulations and particularly where they fail to comply with any statutory notices issued.”
Residents paying £10,000 a week for fire wardens over safety concerns
Residents in two apartment blocks have been paying £10,000 a week for fire warden patrols due to safety concerns, reports the BBC.
The 24-hour “waking watch” at Albion Works in Manchester was introduced after fire officials found alarms could not be heard in the flats.
Residential Management Group (RMG) said the wardens, who began patrols with air horns in December, would continue until a new fire alarm system was installed.
Residents said that meant they had been “asked to write a blank cheque”.
The two buildings managed by RMG on the Ancoats site house a total of 182 flats.
Five wardens at a time have been patrolling on 12-hour shifts, with the costs covered by an extra service charge and the residents’ reserve fund.
Resident and flat owner Matthew Hallworth said it would double his monthly service charge.
“We have been asked to write a blank cheque for this waking watch for an indefinite amount of time [as] we’ve not been given any kind of time frame,” he said.
Fellow resident Emma Tudor said she did not believe “it should have got to the point where the alarm system is human, rather than electronic”.
RMG said it had acted on safety advice from the fire service, surveyors and fire engineers regarding the timber and foam cladding on the buildings following changes after the Grenfell fire disaster in 2017.
“The cladding and insulation are non-compliant and in line with government guidance requires mitigation to ensure the building is safe,” RMG operations director Justin Herbert said.
“Before the problem was identified, the fire alarm did not have a requirement to be heard within the apartments, because the policy was for residents to stay put.”
However, he said the policy had had to change over the cladding concerns, which meant “to maintain safety”, any fire alarm had to be heard inside the flats.
An RMG spokesman said a new fire alarm system would be installed in the two blocks once plans were approved by the fire service.
Landlords who rented out house without working smoke alarms FINED after teenage boy dies in fire
A judge has fined two private landlords for illegally renting out an unlicensed house without working smoke alarms to tenants whose teenage son died after it caught fire, reports the Sutton & Croydon Guardian.
When a fire broke out at the Matope family home in Thornton Heath on March 25 last year, the illegally-let house did not have a Croydon Council landlord licence, which includes fire safety checks.
Firefighters attended the scene, but 13-year-old Kuzi Matope died in hospital on April 2.
The cause of Kuzi’s death has yet to be determined at an inquest, but neither of the two smoke alarms found at the house worked.
At Croydon Magistrates’ Court on January 27, landlords Innocent and Clementia Mukarati, of Leatherhead, pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to license the property in Camden Gardens under section 95 of the Housing Act 2004.
Croydon Council brought the prosecution against Mr Mukarati, aged 50, and Mrs Mukarati, aged 47, after the fatal fire led to the discovery the couple had not applied for a licence.
This has been a legal requirement for all privately-rented homes in Croydon since 2015.
Ordering the married couple to each pay a £787.50 fine, a £78 victim surcharge and £6,563.42 in court costs, or £14,858.84 in total, District Judge Nicholas Easterman sent his condolences to the Matope family, adding that the case was about a failure to license the property and that he could not consider the fire.
He said: “The licensing scheme was introduced by Croydon some time ago to improve the quality of rented premises in the borough.
“The council has done what it could appropriately to bring the scheme to the attention of landlords. Where people rent out property – whether commercial or otherwise – it is incumbent on them to find out what the regulations are.
“It is clear that the smoke alarms were not working; it is not possible to know how long for.
“Had the defendants known of the licensing provisions they might have been more active in the care taken over these sorts of matters. This did not have a material effect on the tragic events which unfolded.”
The council will now add the Mukaratis to the Mayor of London’s rogue landlord database, and it will consider applying for them to be listed on a similar national database run by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Kuzi’s father, Patrick Matope, said: “It is heart-breaking to look back. Kuzivakwashe was a son we loved so much; we miss him every day. He was a very kind, happy, loving, active, well-behaved son who loved going to church. He loved his two younger brothers so dearly and they both miss him too.
“It’s good that the council has come up with this scheme as we think it ensures that landlords take their responsibility seriously and we would encourage private tenants to check if their property is on the register.”
Large fire ravages pet crematorium
Firefighters from around the county battled to control the blaze on Shaftesbury Road in West Stour, north Dorset
Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service received several reports of a building on fire shortly before 5pm yesterday.
A crew from Gillingham and two from Shaftesbury were originally called to the scene; a further crew from Sherborne and an aerial appliance crew and supporting crew from Yeovil Fire Station were then requested.
A spokesman for the fire service said: “Due to the number of calls being received to the incident, a fifth crew was mobilised from Sherborne.
“Once the first crew arrived they found the building to be fully involved in fire and so requested the attendance of a water carrier which also came from Yeovil.
“Several officers also attended to undertake the various operational roles required for an incident of this nature.
“An incident command support unit was requested to attend from Sherborne with a supporting appliance from Warminster. Two main lines, three compressed air foam lines and the aerial appliance were used to deal with the incident where unfortunately 30 per cent of the building was destroyed by fire.”
According to the brigade, the electricity board was also requested to attend to ensure all electrics to the building were isolated, while police and ambulance crews also stood by.
“At around 9pm the incident was scaled back to two relief fire crews from Mere Fire Station and Sturminster Newton Fire Station,” the spokesman added.
“The crews continued dampening down hot spots using a short extension ladder and two hose reel jets.
“At around 11.37pm the incident was handed over to a responsible person, and all crews had left the scene by midnight.”
About Elite Fire & Security
Elite Fire and Security test, service, maintain and install commercial fire alarms. From our Head Office in Bristol, we work in businesses premises, educational facilities and commercial properties, in Bristol, Bath, London, the South West and the M4 corridor.