London Fire Brigade

Agenda item

Questions from Members (in accordance with Standing Order 20) – 5 October 2017 – FEP 2788

Clerk to the Authority – presenting questions received from Members to be answered by the Chair of the Authority. 

Minutes:

Questions from Members for the meeting on 5 October 2017, published in the order received in accordance with Standing Order 20, are set out below, together with the written answers circulated in advance of the meeting, supplementary questions out at the meeting and the replies given:

 

Question 481

From Cllr Martin Whelton (Labour Group)

Can the Commissioner update the Authority on the Total Recalls campaign and whether any response has been received from Government following recent correspondence to the Prime Minister on implementing safety recommendations following the fire in Shepherds Bush last year?

 

Commissioner’s written response:

Since we launched the Total Recalls campaign in 2016, we have taken a number of steps to raise the issue of white goods safety, focusing our campaigning on seeking improvements in the product recall system in the UK, which is underpinned by a drive to improve manufacturing standards.

 

Following the Shepherd’s Bush fire in August 2016, which was caused by a faulty Indesit tumble dryer that was subject to corrective action, a new working group was established by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This group published its recommendations in July 2017.

 

In August 2017, I wrote to the Prime Minister, which was jointly signed by a number of others including the Mayor of London, LFEPA Chair and Conservative lead on LFEPA, Fire Brigades Union and the National Fire Chiefs Council. The letter warned that thousands of dangerous white goods are still being used in homes across the UK and called for decisive action from Government.

 

We have since received a positive response from the Prime Minister, which explained that although a formal response to the BEIS working group’s report will be issued in the autumn, the Government also recognises the need to act swiftly and is considering the framework for a national body to support consumers on product safety. On the safety of fridges which we also raised in the letter, the response said that the Government will work with colleagues including LFB to ensure that the European standard is updated and addresses any issues.

 

We will continue to have conversations with the government and others to press for action to be taken as soon as possible.

 

 

 

Question 482

From Andrew Dismore AM (Labour Group)

There are many ‘backstreet’ garages and car repairers across the capital, often with gas cylinders that present particular hazards, especially when there is a fire as occurred recently in Watling Avenue, Burnt Oak, in a garage that was unknown to LFB. What can be done to make sure the Brigade is made aware of these premises and the risks they pose, and to ensure appropriate advice is given to business owners re fire protection, especially involving the use and storage of cylinders?

 

Commissioner’s written response:

Firefighters carry out visits to premises within their station area to familiarise themselves with any risks.  These may be as part of their statutory 7(2)d visits or by way of a visual audit.  The outcomes of these visits/audits are recorded on the operational risk database where significant risk has been identified, including the presence of gas cylinders.

 

Our fire safety teams also undertake active risk targeting to identify buildings that may be ‘unregulated’ which can, for example, include businesses in railway arches and ‘pop up’ churches.  Where appropriate, enforcement action under fire safety legislation will be taken to ensure that the premises are safe.  If they identify risks (such as the use of cylinders) they will also notify the local fire station of these risks for them to record and be aware of in the event of future incidents.  Where cylinders are being used our officers will, where necessary, provide robust advice on the use and safe storage of them.

 

Officers maintain liaison arrangements with local agencies including the local authority, transport authorities and business groups to try and ensure that we are notified of premises that pose a fire safety risk. Unfortunately, despite these arrangements, there will be some ‘backstreet’ operators that do not come to our attention.

 

Andrew Dismore AM: I am concerned about this; this was quite a serious fire and I think we had 12 pumps out at one time. Wandering around that area there is a whole raft of backstreet enterprises of this nature. I am concerned that we don’t actually know where they are and one of the questions that I would ask, if we are restoring the 27 Fire Safety Inspectors – and I hope we are - whether that will help us try and identify some of these premises and take appropriate action to make sure that they are safer than they may now be seen to be?

 

Director of Operations: Certainly, the additional number of Fire Safety Inspection Officers will help, but I think this is more about crews at stations spending time out on the ground, in the area, getting into the backstreets and carrying out the statutory 7(2)d visits, which are familiarisation visits, and also visual audits. Our stations are out doing visual audits on a regular basis and that is how the local crews find out about these areas. When they find anything of significance, details are entered on our operational risk database which feeds information through to the mobile data terminals which are in the front of all of our fire engines. So, if we get called to an incident and it is not a local crew, quite often the details are already entered on there and we already have some knowledge of it. A key part of this is our Borough Commanders and Station managers working closely with local authorities and maintaining those close links to identify some of these areas, and garages, to use your example.

 

Andrew Dismore AM: The problem with this one - and I don’t suppose it is unique - is that the area was not visible from the road. You would have to go down a back alley, which was not a public highway, to know that it was there. It is not the only one in that particular area, or, I assume, the only one across London. It would be difficult to establish that by just driving around in a fire engine and seeing what was there. It would require going into some considerable detail to find this place. I know of two or three others in the area apart from that one, and that is just in that ward. What efforts are made to draw to the attention of station officers, in the general sense, the need to try and get down these back alleys to find these places?

 

Director of Operations: I think our crews are very good at going above and beyond just down the main streets. Often with these garages they are prone to fly tipping, people dumping rubbish and small fires and our crews know where they are because they get called there for secondary fires on a regular basis. In terms of locating these, our crews are reasonably good at getting out. We have had cycle schemes in the past where they go off the beaten track across areas looking for areas such as this and then when they come across them they use the ‘report it’ tool; we use the TfL site which has a tool where you can report fly tipping and cylinders and the like. We do have close links, all of our borough commanders, with local authorities and that is a two-way process. Where there are properties which are derelict, up for planning permission, for example, we have links where Borough Commanders are told where those sites are, so we go out and visit the sites directly with the information from local authorities as well.

 

Andrew Dismore AM: Thank you.

 

 

 

Question 483

From Unmesh Desai AM

How often in the last 6 months has the Brigade been called upon to attend fires or other incidents at Heathrow Airport to support the airport’s own firefighting team; in what circumstances will the Brigade be called upon to attend and is there a protocol with the airport for this; and how many of these incidents involved fires in aircraft?

 

Commissioner’s written response:

The fires and other incidents attended by the London Fire Brigade at Heathrow airport, including incidents involving aircraft, are set out in the table below. The data covers the six month period from February to August 2017.

 

March-August 2017 incidents in or around Heathrow Airport
(terminals, runways, gates, etc.)

Fires

Special
Services

False Alarm
– good intent

False Alarm
– Automatic
Fire Alarm

Total

Aircraft

Passenger plane

4

2

6

Buildings (Non-residential)

Airport - terminal

27

37

14

78

Airport building (not terminal or hangar)

1

1

2

Airport - hangar

1

1

Train station - platform (below    ground)

1

1

Train station - concourse

1

1

2

Bus/coach station/garage

2

2

Total

30

4

40

18

92

 

The circumstances that would attract a LFB attendance at Heathrow Airport are determined by our statutory duties. How Heathrow Airport supports the LFB response is contained within the Heathrow Airport’s ‘Emergency Orders’ which detail the categories of emergency, the means of alerting emergency services and airport units, and the procedures to co-ordinate the initial response to any incident. LFB support the airport’s management in developing the emergency orders, who in turn act in accordance with civil aviation policy. There was a review of the Heathrow Emergency Orders in 2014. There has just been a further rewrite of Emergency Orders that are due to be published shortly.

 

 

Supporting documents: