Friday, 9 September 2011

The Burning Issue

Returning again to the burning issue of the apparent lack of fire and safety assessments for the Public Gallery, County Hall, I have had sight of the latest, and I imagine final, response from the council through Freedom of Information correspondence. It confirms that there are no assessments, for fire or anything else, in relation to the Gallery and furthermore, the dangers have not been tested as it is confirmed that no members of the public have been involved in fire drills. The council also claims that the exit door from the gallery can be opened by pressing a button, if this is true (and I wonder why the staff members I had to summon to release me, and escort me out on Monday needed to use a swipe card?) then why mislead everyone that they needed to phone through to a 'central control'? This could clearly delay a response to an emergency.
There is only one way to find out and I shall be pressing buttons next week. I will not, however, be setting the fire alarms off which apparently releases all the locks for a quick getaway - we'll just have to trust their technological skills on that one. Despite this, the actual advice to those souls smouldering in the gallery is to remain seated and wait for an officer to lead you to safety. A further contradiction arises when it is claimed (in another unrelated assessment) that everyone can get out of the building in 3 minutes. I think not.

Once again the lengthy and contorted explanations merely confirm the fact that public safety was not even on the horizon when the 'operational decision' was hastily made to restrict entry, the officers were clearly completely focussed on nothing other than preventing anyone filming a meeting.

Perhaps the next meeting will see the implementation of an additional 'undertaking'? - "I hereby promise not to hold the Council responsible for injuries sustained by fire and/or smoke inhalation in the public gallery nor from broken limbs in an attempt to leap to safety from the balcony"?

Let's just hope the issue never becomes a reality and the statement that a fire assessment is 'not needed' for the mere mortals in the Gallery doesn't come back to haunt them.

County Hall, Carmarthen
Previous posts include; Fire assessments - or lack of them , Locked Out, etc etc


Anonymous said...

have the fire brigade been informed of CCC changes regarding exit from the public gallery in the event of a fire

Photon said...

It might be worth contacting the HSE; I'm sure that, having all the facts presented to them, they would at least want to pay a visit, to ensure proper compliance with all H&S law.

caebrwyn said...

@Photon I did contact the HSE a couple of days after the 13th July, but they deemed it a fire risk issue and put me through to the fire service, they, in turn said I should contact the local fire station in Carmarthen, I still felt it was a H & S matter so didn't. Perhaps it's now time to follow that one through.

Patricia said...

They will never learn that 'Honesty is always the best policy'!!!

Speaks volumes, dishonesty again, on a pretty important issue! It is inherent.

Cneifiwr said...

Three minutes is patently unrealistic time to allow for evacuation from the public gallery. I have often see elderly and infirm people in the gallery, which is accessed via a long corridor and, depending on which exit is used, a very long flight of stairs.

Photon said...

@Cneifiwr: the admission that not only has a proper risk assessment not been done but also said to be not necessary means that dangers, risks and other issues like this cannot possibly have been identified as effectively as they ought to be.

There's a reason why RAs exist: to consider scenarios and assess the, erm, risks.

There's clearly a need for Carms. to periodically run a proper fire drill with a good mix of people present in the gallery. Is the reason why this hasn't been done a misguided desire not to interrupt council meetings?