Residents of Theobald House in Brighton express dismay over inadequate fire safety measures, highlighting concerns about the absence of a functioning alarm system and delayed council response.

27 February 2024

Residents residing in the 18-storey Theobald House, located on Blackman Street in Brighton, have raised alarming issues regarding the lack of a communal alarm system, leaving occupants unaware of a fire that broke out until the following day. According to reports, the absence of an effective alarm system meant that those residing on the upper floors of the building were oblivious to the incident until it circulated on social media platforms. Most of the flats within Theobald House are managed by the Brighton and Hove City Council.

Following the distressing ordeal, residents expressed feeling neglected as the council allegedly failed to attend two meetings aimed at addressing concerns regarding the fire incident and the deficient alarm system. The fire occurred during the early hours of Sunday, 18th February, but it wasn't until the subsequent Thursday that the council distributed hand-delivered letters to residents, outlining protocols to be followed in the event of a fire.

During a tenants and leaseholders meeting, attendees highlighted the ineffectiveness of the ground-floor alarm, stressing that it failed to alert the majority of occupants. Concerns were also raised regarding the absence of fire extinguishers and communal area fire alarms, with residents expressing frustration over the lack of immediate action from the council.

Furthermore, testimonies from residents underscored the dire consequences of the inadequate safety measures, particularly for vulnerable individuals such as an elderly, bed-bound resident who would have been unable to evacuate in the event of a fire.

Despite promises from council representatives to address the issue, residents remain disillusioned by the perceived indifference towards their safety. Georgina Parke, who organised the meetings, expressed disappointment at the absence of council officials, including Justine Harris, head of tenancy services.

In response to escalating concerns, Gill Williams, chairwoman of the council’s housing committee, acknowledged the severity of the situation and emphasised the council's commitment to fire safety. However, residents remain sceptical, citing the lack of tangible actions to rectify the identified deficiencies.

Cllr Williams assured residents that the council conducts regular fire safety checks in high-rise blocks and has collaborated with the fire service to assess safety standards. Despite this assurance, residents are demanding concrete measures to ensure their safety, including the installation of a functional alarm system.

Amidst growing discontent, residents await tangible actions from the council to address their concerns and safeguard their homes against potential fire hazards.

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