CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Sprinklers to be installed at homes of vulnerable people most at risk from fires

Hoarders and drug addicts among those who will get portable misting system

27 July, 2018 — By William McLennan

PORTABLE  sprinklers are being installed above beds and sofas of vulnerable people most at risk of starting fires – including hoarders and drug users – as part of Camden Council’s safety overhaul.

The Town Hall has so far installed the “personal misting systems” in six homes, including one on crisis-hit Chalcots estate, with more in the pipeline. The move follows at least two deaths in recent years caused by fires at the homes of residents that should have been identified as “high risk”.

Senior council officers have outlined the changes made to fire safety in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the evacuation of Chalcots estate. Residents thought to be more likely to cause a fire inadvertently, or who have mobility issues that would prevent them escaping, are being given special attention.

Director of housing management Mary McGowan said: “We have been using [personal misting systems] particularly for people who have a problem with hoarding. We have a number of people that maybe drink more alcohol than is good for them and smoke very heavily. “The personal misting system has been really successful since the Chalcots. We have actually used it within the Chalcots.”

She added: “[It] is a good example of partnership with the fire brigade, because they funded us £30,000 or £40,000 towards that.” Director of resident safety Keith Scott, who was appointed in the wake of the Chalcots evacuation, described the system as looking like a “big radiator, big showerhead, two detectors”.

He said: “They are a separate supply [of water], over a particular target area. It could be a bed or a settee. You can move them from location to location. It’s a bit cumbersome, but it does the job. He added: “The good news is none of them have had to be tested yet.” The systems are also connected to community alarms. London Fire Brigade guidance on personal misting systems says that analysis of fatal fires has found that victims had a “combination of risk factors”. “

A significant percentage of victims are at greater risk due to a physical/mental impairment that makes them unaware of, or unable to respond to, a fire in their home,” it says.

John McKelvey, a 46-year-old recovering heroin addict and heavy drinker, was overcome by smoke when his bedsheets were set alight by the “careless disposal of smoking materials” at his council home in Hawley Road, Camden Town, on Boxing Day, 2016. An inquest into his death heard that, despite his long-known drink and drug problems, he had no fire alarm in his room. A fire alarm in the communal hallway was faulty.

In April an inquest heard how Magdalena Fink died in her home in a council-owned block in Daleham Gardens, Hamp­stead, when fire broke out in a cupboard full of items put there by a hoarder who lived below. An inquest into her death also heard concerns that the fire alarm outside her flat did not alert her to the blaze.

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