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Investigation finds fire risks and widespread overcrowding at Traveller sites

A national audit of Traveller accomodation published today finds issues with electrics and access to sites.

Image: Shutterstock/defotoberg

OVERCROWDING, the lack of fire alarms and the risk of electrocution are just three issues highlighted in the nationwide review of all Traveller accommodation.

The national audit was ordered by the government in the wake of the Carrickmines tragedy last October, in which 10 people, including five children died.

Just three days after the tragedy, the Department of the Environment told local authorities to review all Traveller sites.

According to the findings, unsafe electrical sockets, overcrowded bays and caravans being too close together is common on most sites.

Inspection of Traveller sites 

The Review of Fire Safety in Local Authority Provided Traveller Accommodation report inspected fire safety in 95% or 2,042 units.

There are 2,144 Traveller units across the country.

The final 5% or 102 accommodation units which were not subject to the audit are either unoccupied, closed or undergoing renovations. Others were not subject to the audit due to the local authority being unable to gain access to the site.

Smoke alarms 

The report found that 81% or 1,654 of units had no working smoke alarms.

The report states:

The occurrence of fire in a caravan could lead to a situation where conditions become untenable and escape routes become unusable. If people are asleep when a fire starts, they may never wake up or get the chance to escape.

Of these units, 77% or 1,274 have been supplied with a smoke alarms as of 1 July 2016.

traveller

The report notes that “in some cases, occupants informed the fire service that they did not wish to be provided with smoke alarms or to have them fitted. This points to the need for further work to raise awareness of fire dangers and the place of fire safety measures”.

Caravans too close together 

The layout of some halting sites was also identified as a fire safety risk to occupants.

Separation distances between Traveller units was identified as an issue of concern in 57% of the sites inspected.

Of these, 35% have had remedial works carried out.

The condition of electrics and, in particular, the external use of multiple plug adaptors, was identified as an issue in 62% of the sites appraised.

Of these, only 51% have dealt with the issue and had remedial works done.

Electrics 

… there remains a sizeable number of accommodation units where this is on-going issue,” the report states.

The lack of a working carbon monoxide alarm was identified as an issue in 3% of units. Over 1,170 have been supplied with a carbon monoxide alarm to date.

The lack of access for fire services, the lack of a fire blanket and the lack of fire safety information, were also identified as key issues in the report.

One halting site review document, released under the Freedom of Information Act to TheJournal.ie, found that only one 50% of caravans on the site had a fire alarm.

14/10/2015. Travellers Halting sites Vigils Pictured members of the travelling community and supporters at a candle light vigil in Carrickmines where 10 people passed away in a fire. Source: Rollingnews.ie

On the same site, over 50% of the utility buildings had chimneys with hot gasses leaking from the flue between the stove and the chimney.

Another report for a site in Tullamore found that 66% of the utility buildings have inadequate fire detection.

Most systems were found to be battery operated and the batteries were missing or did not sound when tested.

Remedial works 

Local authorities report that enhancements have been completed in 74% or 1,501 of the units reviewed. Adjustments in layout have also been  made where feasible.

According to the report, over 90% of local authorities have carried out community fire safety talks and demonstrations.

Local fire services have also carried out “pre-incident planning” visits to ensure familiarity with the location and to deal with access and water supply issues.

A spokesperson for Dun Laoghaire County Council said its formal fire safety audit of all Traveller accommodation was carried out in the early part of 2016.

In the report, John McCarthy, Secretary-General at the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government said:

Nothing in this report can alleviate the suffering of the families affected directly by the fire which claimed the lives of ten persons from an extended family on the morning of 10 October 2015. However, this report describes the work which has been undertaken in the intervening period to plan, audit and implement fire safety measures and improvements focussed on protecting Travellers from the dangers of fire.

The report also contains a dedication to those that lost their lives in the Carrickmines tragedy last year:

dedication

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