Lift in London council housing block

Concern for Haringey’s vulnerable tenants after fire safety survey

Haringey Council was criticised for a misleading fire safety survey last month, which could endanger disabled and less mobile people during fire evacuation.

The council was forced to abandon a March door knocking and online safety survey, after forgetting to remind tenants lifts are prohibited in the event of a fire. 

There is wider concern the housing industry is not considering vulnerable people in Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs), after 41% of disabled tenants died in the 2017 Grenfell fire.  

Secretary of housing activist group Haringey Defend Council Housing, Paul Burnham, 69, Wood Green, said: “I was horrified.

“There are a considerable number of people in my block dependent on lifts, who won’t be able to manage 15 flights of stairs.

“Grenfell was a wake up call to the housing industry that things weren’t and still aren’t acceptable.”

Burnham and the group are lobbying for the inclusion of disabled, elderly, pregnant and less mobile tenants in PEEPs across the borough. 

Council housing block in Wood Green, London.
“LIVES ARE AT STAKE HERE”: Many tenants in Burnham’s block are dependent on lifts (Credit: Paul Burnham)

In 2022, the government announced it would not be implementing core recommendations from the Grenfell Inquiry that would make PEEPs for disabled people in high-rises a legal requirement. 

Tenants were instead asked to ‘stay put’ during an emergency.

Burnham said: “Lives are at stake here and the job of authorities is to maintain the safety of its people, which just isn’t taking place.”

The response suggested those with disabilities would obstruct able bodied people from escaping, whilst higher leasehold charges to pay for PEEPs could create ill feeling amongst other tenants seeing their bills rise.

A council spokesperson said: “The safety of our residents is a top priority, and we are speaking to every household in high-rise buildings to identify any residents that might be vulnerable.

“We can then undertake a personal risk assessment to establish how we can best ensure they would be kept safe and what, if any, additional measures we are able or need to provide in the event of a fire. 

“All our buildings have Fire Action Notices displayed in the communal areas, so residents are fully advised on the steps to take in the event of a fire, including not to use the lifts.”

Haringey Council noted that lifts are not used during fire evacuation as per London Fire Brigade guidance, to reduce risk of fire spreading throughout the building via the lift shaft and door openings. 

The council has since restarted its survey, now with ‘no lift’ information for 42 high and mid rise blocks.  

This year marks the seventh anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy, where 71 people lost their lives.

Image credits go to Paul Burnham

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