Serious fire safety failures have been found in care homes across London by Brigade inspectors. There were 177 care homes visited to gauge the level of fire risk across the capital in a one-off series of in-depth inspections. The Brigade's findings included the following serious fire safety breaches:
- One in three premises with inadequate or poorly maintained fire doors
- Widespread confusion about fire evacuation strategies
- Fire risk assessments being carried out by people without the proper skills and experience
- Roofs being omitted from fire risk assessments (roof voids often increase the spread and severity of a fire.)
London Fire Brigade is so concerned that they have written to every care home in the capital demanding they urgently review their fire risk assessments, emergency plans and staff training.
London Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner Dan Daly said: "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."
In 2017, two people died in a Cheshunt care home after a fire travelled through voids in the roof which allowed it to quickly engulf the entire building. Crews from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue and London Fire Brigade found residents in many rooms, many too frail too move themselves to safety. Miraculously, 33 residents were rescued.
Assistant Commissioner Daly continued: "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, the Care Quality Commission's (CQC) Deputy Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care for the London Region, said: "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."