Despite the increased attention given to fire over the last two years, sensitivity to fire safety is still not apparently at the high level it really needs to be given the unpredictability and uncertainties of fire. London Fire Brigade have reported that the elderly are potentially at risk in significant numbers of care homes that they have inspected. The brigade has found that too many failed to measure up in formal audits, when awareness of the dangers from fire would be expected to be acute.
It can never be appropriate to relax the focus on fire safety. The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 brought fire safety into line with established health and safety procedures. Places other than individual private homes (dwellings such as houses and apartments) require a fire risk assessment of the fire safety measures and the means of escape. Fire is a particular potential threat in care homes where residents are extremely vulnerable and unable to escape to a place of safety without help.
Yet London Fire Brigade have reported several staggering outcomes from their surveys:
45% of the care homes evaluated in the formal audit were found to have fire risk assessments that were unsuitable or insufficient;
101 out of 177 of inspected premises had to be issued with a formal warning;
in 29% of the inspected homes problems were found with fire doors; and
one in seven have been said to have poor emergency planning or a potential shortfall in staff to fully carry out the emergency plan.