Emergency, Feature, Residential

’No emergency lighting’ at 49 Irish tower blocks

The probe into 695 local authority buildings in Ireland found a range of other failures as well as absence of emergency lighting, especially the disabling of smoke alarms by tenants to prevent nuisance tripping. (Picture copyright Philip Milne 2017)

AN IRISH government investigation into fire safety in the country’s social housing towers found that 49 had no emergency lighting at all.

The probe into 695 local authority buildings of more than six storeys or 18 metres in height – conducted in the wake of the Grenfell tower fire in the UK – also found a range of other failures, especially the disabling of smoke alarms by tenants to prevent nuisance tripping.

The survey also notes that 41 of the towers did not have fire detection or alarm systems in place and in 14 buildings, escape routes were blocked. These issues – including the emergency lighting – have since been rectified.

‘The report makes a number of important recommendations and identifies areas as a key focus for attention in the immediate future,’ said Irish housing minister Eoghan Murphy. (Picture: OSCE Parliamentary Assembly)

Additionally, the ‘Fire Safety in Ireland’ report says the ‘combination of contributory factors’ that apparently gave rise to the Grenfell tragedy ‘do not appear to be present in buildings in Ireland’.

Ireland’s housing minister Eoghan Murphy told the press: ’I  hope that people in Ireland take re-assurance in knowing that the surveys undertaken as part of the Task Force’s work indicate that multi-storey, multi-unit social housing is generally well built and maintained safe.

‘Likewise, while assessment and necessary upgrading works are ongoing in a small number of cases, we are all reassured that the conditions which appear to have contributed to  Grenfell Tower tragedy do not appear to be present in medium to high rise buildings in Ireland.

‘The report does, however, make a number of important recommendations and identifies areas as a key focus for attention in the immediate future, particularly raising consciousness among ‘persons having control’ of premises of their statutory fire safety responsibility under the Fire Services Acts, through targeted campaigns’. 

The Irish report follows a week after the revelation that over a third of England’s social housing towers have inadequate emergency lighting.

In an investigation of 1,584 tower blocks – 40 per cent of the country’s total social stock – a total of 402, or 36 per cent, had missing or broken emergency lighting on the residents’ escape routes.

Inside Housing magazine conducted the probe by analysing the fire risk assessments for all 1,584 tower blocks. As well as inadequate emergency lighting, the assessments reveal broken fire doors, holes in walls that breach fire compartmentation and missing fire safety information for residents across the country.

In 2005, an independent report into the emergency lighting at Grenfell Tower revealed that two thirds of the tower’s emergency lighting units failed a routine inspection.

The report, compiled by Capita Symonds, criticised the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) as well as the electrical contractor responsible for the lighting on the escape routes.

It stated that there was ‘inadequate management’, ‘inadequate installation standards’, a ‘failure to acknowledge the importance of undertaking urgent remedial works’ as well as a ‘lack of communication’ between the managers of the West London tower and its residents.

Seventy-two residents lost their lives in the blaze that destroyed the Grenfell Tower in west London in June 2017.

  • Emergency lighting and the responsibilities of building owners will be the focus of the conference programme at the Escape Zone at the LuxLive 2018 exhibition taking place at ExCeL London on Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November 2018. Entry is completely free if you pre-register HERE.