Residential care homes ‘routinely’ breaching fire regulations

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Care homes are routinely breaching fire safety legislation and putting thousands of elderly and disabled residents at risk, says a report in the Guardian.

135 care homes were the subject of enforcement action by fire and rescue services between January 2010 and March 2011, according to responses to freedom of information requests from 37 out of 46 fire services in England.

Hazards included inadequate alarms, blocked escape routes, damaged and dangerous equipment and untrained staff.

About 90% of the homes concerned are privately owned, the vast majority by small, one-home operators, says the article.

Residential care homes are increasingly under financial pressure as a result of the squeeze by local authorities on the fees they pay them.

Responding to the news, a spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Society said older people, especially those with dementia, need more time to understand what is happening around them and to negotiate fire exits.

One manager, who took charge of a care home after it had been issued with an enforcement notice, told the newspaper that staff often do not understand the risks involved:

"When I first took over the home, there were no risk assessments or training in fire safety. Staff and residents often have no idea what to do in the event of the alarm sounding and stand there looking at one another. Many aren't able to detect from the fire alarm panel whereabouts in the building the fire is located."

In March this year, additional guidance for operators of residential care premises was published to enhance existing government guidance. In April, a fatal accident enquiry in Scotland concluded that some or all of the deaths of 14 residents at the Rosepark care home fire in 2004 were avoidable.

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