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Audit shows many care homes fail fire safety checks

February 8, 2019

An audit of care homes by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) has shown that more than half failed basic checks.

Of the 177 homes inspected by the LFB, 101, or 57%, were issued with a formal notification instructing them to address safety concerns. The brigade said it believed the findings would be repeated if similar inspections were carried out across the country.

The brigade launched the review after a series of fires at care homes. In February 2018 a resident in his 80s died and another was left in a critical condition after a fire at the Woodlands View care home in Stevenage. In 2017 two people died in a Cheshunt care home after a fire travelled through the roof, quickly engulfing the building.

“Care home owners need to review their fire risk assessments urgently,” said LFB assistant commissioner Dan Daly.

“If you were placing your loved one into the care of others, you would expect them to be safe but, for too many, the very roof they are under could put them at risk.”

Just under half – 45% – of the homes inspected were found to have an unsuitable or insufficiently comprehensive fire risk assessment in place, a significant concern for the LFB.

“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,” said Mr Daly.

You wouldn’t let an underqualified surgeon operate on you, so why allow someone without the proper experience to undertake your fire risk assessment?”

One in seven homes, or 14%, were found to have poor emergency planning or a potential lack of staff to implement the plan. A similar proportion of homes had problems with their protected escape corridors, while there were failures relating to fire doors at 29% of the homes inspected. One in 10 provided inadequate training for staff.

The LFB said it feared that fire safety training for care home staff was becoming generic. Against the backdrop of the Grenfell tragedy, the findings make sobering reading, and the brigade has written to the care homes it inspected, alerting them of the need to conduct adequate risk assessments.

“It is concerning that operators of care homes do not in all cases understand the need for their fire risk assessment to be carried out by an assessor that is competent and experienced in these fire safety complexities,” said the LFB.

Debbie Ivanova, a deputy chief inspector at the Care Quality Commission, said it was the duty of care home operators to ensure that they had the right fire protection measures in place.

“We know that good care home providers invest in proper and regular fire training for their staff, and ensure that emergency plans are kept up to date,” she said.

“But as the LFB’s findings make clear, good fire safety isn’t the norm everywhere.”

London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner Dan Daly

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