Residents at one of the Ledbury Estate tower blocks were evacuated twice in three days due to false fire alarms – at 3am on Saturday, and 8am on Monday.
About 50 households in Bromyard House, Commercial Way, were affected by the disturbance. Many residents were stuck outside wearing their pyjamas, in cold and rainy weather.
Former Bromyard House resident Danielle Gregory, of the Ledbury Action Group, told the News: “Somehow it turned itself on. And each time it automatically calls the fire brigade and everyone has to evacuate.
“Some people had them going off in their flats and said it was deafening. Most people evacuated and waited in the rain. And again [on Monday] they were out there with their children and in their pyjamas.”
The council has confirmed the false alarms were caused by a faulty smoke detector, which triggered other alarms in the fourteen-story tower via its “wireless booster system”. The problem was then due to be fixed on Tuesday.
Complaints were also made about the conduct of fire marshals, who since June, when serious fire-safety issues were discovered, have been deployed at the four towers to assist with an evacuation.
Danielle added: “At 3am, not all of the marshals were in place. Some of them didn’t help the vulnerable residents, and they had to be helped down stairs, but it was really chaotic. There was no direction from the marshals. It was a shambles.”
Cllr Stephanie Cryan, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “Everyone working on the Ledbury estate is extremely unhappy about what happened over the weekend and I can’t apologise enough for the upset and worry it caused to our residents. Our new communal fire alarm in Bromyard went off despite the fact the work to install the alarm has not been completed yet.
“The director of the Ledbury estate, Mike Tyrrell, has also met with residents affected and the manager of the firm that provides the fire wardens and as a result several changes have been put in place both to personnel and procedures.
“The fire wardens remain on site and Southwark staff are available at the TRA Hall 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if anyone has any concerns.”
The two incidents follow an evacuation at Skenfrith House on October 7, caused when a resident left his home with a hotplate running.
A new central heating system was fully installed on October 14 to replace the four blocks’ gas system – after structural surveyors discovered they had been unsafe to carry gas since they were built in 1968. A new fire alarm system is also due to be fully installed in November.