Residents in South London housing for vulnerable women ‘terrified’ after fire alarms ‘switched off’

Residents in a South London apartment block for vulnerable women have been left terrified after being told their fire alarms would be switched off.

Housing provider Housing for Women explained the changes were due to ‘persistent internal vandalism of the fire alarm system’.

Residents of the Deptford building were informed in a letter sent out on Friday, September 24.

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One resident of the building on Childers Street, who wishes to remain anonymous told MyLondon: “I’m terrified to be honest. I’ve been speaking to other residents and we’re all really scared.

“We have a WhatsApp where we all talk about this.

“It’s ridiculous. Rather than dealing with the resident who’s causing the problems, they’re putting us all in danger.”

According to Housing for Women the London Fire Brigade have informed the fire alarms have been switched off.

She continued: “I’ve got repair issues outstanding, I don’t want to speak out and then Housing for Women get in the way of that.”

Although Housing for Women were set up to support vulnerable women their remit has broadened and MyLondon understands some in the affected block are not classed as ‘vulnerable’.

In the letter sent to residents and seen by MyLondon the housing provider said: “Due to persistent internal vandalism of the fire alarm system, which is causing it to go off unwarranted, we have made the decision to temporarily suspend the fire alarm.

“This means that in event of a fire, the alarm will NOT GO OFF.”

Residents are instead told: “If you detect a fire anywhere in your building, you need to leave the building immediately and assemble outside the Scout Hut across the road on Childers Street.”

Multiple fire engines were called out during the evacuations

Zaiba Qureshi, Chief Executive Housing for Women, told MyLondon: “The fire alarm system in one block of our occupied buildings affecting 16 residents has been subject to vandalism which has meant that the alarm has been triggered frequently and faults have occurred.

“As false alarms and faults can compromise resident safety, we have taken the decision to temporarily suspend the fire alarm system in this block whilst we investigate this matter.

“The fire alarm system at the block is already supported by a 24 hour on site staff team and we have increased these patrols to a full Waking Watch to support residents who have any concerns whilst the fire alarm is out of use. We have contacted all the affected residents to assure them that this is a temporary measure and we will keep residents updated while we complete our investigations.

“The London Fire Brigade have been advised of this temporary change and we can confirm that this approach is compliant with legislation.”

The block has been forced to evacuate ‘countless’ times over the past few months.

Fire safety in the building is supported by a ‘waking watch’ introduced in the wake of a fire in a neighbouring building in May 2020.

That fire was caused after a resident tried to dispose of a barbecue in a plastic bag and left it on the balcony.

1 JS212253877

An improperly disposed barbecue damaged half of a flat on the fifth floor of a six-storey block and most of the roof as well as part of the roof of an adjacent block of flats

The blaze damaged the fifth floor flat and spread to the roof of the building as well as the roof of the adjoining block.

Eight fire engines and 60 firefighters were rushed to the scene and worked for almost five hours to bring the fire under control.

Around 100 people were evacuated.

Have you had concerns about fire safety in your building? Please get in touch at [email protected]

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