John Healy, a disabled pensioner on the South Kilburn Estate has been given the run-around by Brent Council in his attempts to get them to issue a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) to safeguard his life in the event of a fire. He contacted me in desperation after getting nowehere with councillors, housing officers and his MP:
I am grateful for anything that you might be able to help me with, including contacting the council on my behalf. I sent my completed PEEP to the council last September but they have not contacted me about it. Since them my mobility has got much worse and I am now housebound.I keep ringing them and emailing the council and also my Kilburn Ward councillors but no one replies. I escalated it by contacting my MP but she has not replied either, although she did sent me an automated email saying she had received my email and would get back to me sometime.Inside Housing had a story last Friday, on how several disabled people died trapped in their homes in Grenfell tower and I could be facing the same situation in my block as no one can ever predict when a fire may break out.
I offered John Healy a chance to tell his own story on Wembley Matters. Here it is:
GUEST POST BY JOHN HEALY
I am a 70 year old male, living on my own in a South Kilburn high-rise, with a mobility issue and a hearing impairment (in both ears) I am registered with Brent Council as a disabled person but unfortunately I also caught the Covid back in early March 2020 which has worsened my mobility issues and at the end of Feb. 2021 my legs felt they like they had lead attached to them and the result was I was unable to walk at all. I had been asking the council for a PEEP (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan) for over 6 months but they will not issue me with one.
I need a PEEP urgently in case my high-rise needs an emergency evacuation e.g a severe fire and I would need the assistance of someone to help me evacuate my flat but without having a PEEP no one will be aware of my situation. I assume there will be many more disabled people in Brent needing a PEEP which the council needs to respond to immediately, as it could be a matter of life and death.
Currently Parliament is set to make it a legal requirement (Ref: The Fire Safety Bill) for all councils in England to issue a PEEP to all disabled people living in high rises who need one. They will use a 'traffic light system' that will identify the risk level of every disabled person living in a high rise flat e.g. red for people with mobility issues and green for people with hearing impairments.
Although I am not a leaseholder myself, I am a member of the disabled leaseholders group who have been campaigning to get the government to pay for the removal of dangerous cladding from their own high rises but some of them also need a PEEP, I have submitted a question to the panel at next week's cladding meeting on Zoom (see WM post below for details) where I have asked the panel, "Why does Brent Council refuse to issue me with a PEEP?" and hopefully both my MP's might give me a response. I have previously sent three emails to my MP but she has not replied yet. That is ok as I know she is very busy dealing with other serious issues all of the time.
It appears that my high -rise has even fewer Fire Prevention measures than were in situ at Grenfell e.g we do not even have any fire alarms that could alert all our residents if a fire was to break out and help them to evacuate more quickly. The council have also said it would be a waste of money to install sprinklers in my high-rise, as it is due to be demolished in 2026/27 as part of the South Kilburn Regeneration programme.
At Larkanal in 2009 everyone who died were not disabled but were families with children and they were told to remain in their 4th floor flats and wait for the fire service to come & rescue them - they were burnt alive. Some people might not think being on the 5th floor is high enough to be a threat but the Grenfell fire started on the 4th floor. But for me it is about evacuating myself down our only fire escape, unable to see in the smoke and with everyone non-disabled in a hurry to get out and I might be in their way due to my slow pace.
Several disabled people at Grenfell had this experience for real and they described being knocked over by others trying to escape
When I first moved into the block in 1993 the council had a policy saying no one with a disability should be housed above the 4th floor but they said 4th or 5th - what's the difference? But it could be difficult to escape if you cannot walk even if you are only one floor up.
Brent Council has not implemented any of the Fire Safety Risks – Means of Escape for Disabled People (2007) LINK measures in my tower block and I assume in the other 37 high rises in Brent. e.g. my block does not even have a Fire Alarm.
Finally, The London Fire Brigade believes that everyone will be safe if sprinklers are installed in every high rise across London and that every council should install them without delay. But it seems the council do not consider that my life and my fellow residents are worth saving, as they have decided we are expendable. But if the council were to issue me with a PEEP, at least it would increase my chances of surviving, unlike all the disabled residents who tragically lost their lives at The Grenfell Tower in 2017…
Disability Rights UK has insisted that disabled people in high rise flats should have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan. LINK
Time for some action.
Today (March 17th) Brent Council responded to Wembley Matters with the statement below. Kilburn ward councillors have not yet reacted to an offer to publish their response:
A Brent Council spokesperson said: "Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEP) are essential for anyone who may need assistance in the unlikely event of being advised to leave a building because of fire. We're concerned that something seems to have gone wrong here and have contacted Mr Healy to put it right.
"Last year, we proactively reached out to all tenants, asking anyone who needed assistance to complete a PEEP. We don't seem to have received a PEEP from Mr Healy and will be investigating what has gone wrong here, along with Mr Healy's comments about not being able to reach us.
"If any Brent Council tenant, who does not already have a PEEP, and would require assistance in a fire evacuation, we urge them to contact HousingManagement@brent.gov.uk or call 020 8937 1234."