Assistant Editor, Safety & Health Practitioner

February 27, 2020

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Fire Safety

‘A catalogue of fire risks’ found at Victoria Coach Station

London’s Victoria Coach Station has been given a fire enforcement notice after concerns were raised from fire experts  that revealed a “catalogue of major fire risks”.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) had already filed a ten-page report of concerns and recommendations to Transport Trading Limited in October 2019.

The safety risks that were found at the busy coach station included:

  • Holes in walls, which could cause a fire to spread;
  • Victoria_Coach_StationInadequate and broken sprinklers, which were out of use for more than two years;
  • Unclear fire escape signage and notices, which could mislead and confuse people, in the event of a fire;
  • No evidence that an evaluation of risks had taken place;
  • Fire staircase from maintenance workshop used for storage.

The report highlighted that fire exit signs at the station were of “mixed standards”, other signs were “contradictory” in the mobility lounge, while “degraded” signs in the maintenance workshop, was also mentioned.

It also referenced that no live or mock emergency evacuation had taken place. A TFL spokeswoman said the last full evacuation exercise was taken on 4 October 2019, “with partial evacuation exercise on 14 October 2019.”

Mock emergency evacuation exercises are crucial in spotting any problems that need to be improved, and train staff in the procedures of evacuation. However, the report said that employees had not been given “clear and relevant information” about fire alarms at the coach station and fire suppression systems, which could “lead to delays and impede firefighting.”

An evaluation, carried out by London Fire Brigade experts, on the sprinklers at the East Terminal departures canopy revealed that they had not been working since 2017, highlighting the risk of fire spreading to other vehicles, exposing heat and smoke to passengers, and “possibly affecting their means of escape.”

LFB have declared that an undetected fire which spreads “would pose a significant risk to life from the products of combustion and delay firefighting operations.”

The automatic fire alarm system was also among the breaches, as it did not have enough wide coverage for passengers to hear, as well as an untested battery smoke detector being used in the mezzanine area.

Holes in walls were discovered in various areas of the coach station, including the basement maintenance area, ticket office storeroom, service area behind the information desk, mezzanine level, service cupboard of men’s toilet in the North East Terminal, electrical intake room at the arrivals terminal and finally, the gas intake room in the office block. This will allow smoke and heat to spread rapidly and increase the severity of the fire.

A fire safety expert described it as a “walking disaster area” for the 14 million passengers, that Victoria Coach Station has annually, as investigations found that customer safety had not been prioritised.

The station has been given until 23 March, to implement changes and improve its fire safety order that was breached.

The fire enforcement notice has prompted the MP for Cities of London and Westminster, Nickie Aiken, to contact the deputy Mayor of London and the Transport Commissioner.

She expressed: “I am greatly concerned to learn that TFL has received an enforcement notice by the London Fire Service for Victoria Coach Station. Passenger and employee safety should be at the top priority. I hope and expect that TFL will take this issue very seriously and comply.”

TFL’s Chief Safety Health and Environment officer, Lilli Matson, said: “Safety is our top priority, and we work closely with London Fire Brigade to ensure that our network is safe for customers and staff. We have already addressed many of the points raised in the enforcement notice, which had also been identified in our most recent fire risk assessment.

“We have appointed a contractor to reinstate the coach station’s sprinklers and have deployed 24/7 fire watchers while we complete this project.”

Independent Fire Safety Expert, Stephen Mackenzie, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “There are some concerning findings, Victoria Coach Station is by far the worst I’ve seen in a long time.”

This article was originally published on IFSEC Global.

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