Pensioners at an Ealing retirement home claim they were left without working fire or emergency alarms for eight months after pesky squirrels kept breaking them. Residents at the Garden Court retirement home in Chiswick said that an army of squirrels chewed through the wiring for the fire and emergency alarms in July 2021, but the council refused to fix anything until the squirrels had died.
According to resident Bill Allison the retirement home alerted Ealing Council to the broken alarm systems when they first broke but they were ignored. Bill said: “[The council] were warned about that.
“Our housing officer told them there would be big trouble but they wouldn’t listen. Eventually someone from the council came and said we needed to wait for the squirrels to die before the wires could be fixed in case it happened again.”
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Garden Court is home to 33 elderly residents of varying vulnerability, some of whom are ill or use wheelchairs. As a result of the broken emergency alarms, residents in nineteen flats were unable to alert the home’s warden if they needed help. Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Bill said he was concerned about the risks to residents’ safety that the lack of working fire or emergency alarms for eight months posed. He said the council were very fortunate that no emergencies or fires had happened while the systems were broken.
Handheld alarms were handed out by the council, but Bill says they’re too complicated for most of the elderly residents to use. He said: “Our oldest resident is 95 and he would struggle to do things like that, and a lot of the residents do. They’re too old for them. They don’t understand them.”
According to Bill, the issues with the fire and emergency alarms were not the only ones the council had failed to address. The roof of Garden Court’s community area has been leaking for three years, causing damp to appear and making part of the room unusable, he said.
Bill said: “The roof of our little common room has been leaking for three years and we can only use half the room because of it.” He claimed when Ealing Council eventually did send out someone to assess the leaking roof, the engineer refused to climb onto it, saying he was not allowed to do so for safety reasons. He added: “It’s what you call a total joke.”
Additionally, a pipe underneath part of the home fractured in September last year, causing damp and mould to grow in the flats directly above it. Bill said: “Again, nobody came out to look at it. The warden called to say ‘Listen, we’ve got a leak, can you come and sort it?’ But nobody did.”
After five months of the leak, one of the residents, a retired plumber, managed to find a way to turn off the water. When the LDRS visited Garden Court, the alarm systems were being rewired by an electrician, although it was unclear whether the systems had been fully fixed.
John, who has lived at Garden Court for four years, said: “It beggars belief that they would let a simple job be put off for the meantime so that it turns into a bigger problem. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Cllr Andrew Steed, whose ward the retirement home lies in, said: “Sadly this is a familiar tale of the council failing to listen, failing to respond and failing to communicate with residents.” Ealing Council has been approached for comment.
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