Faulty lift call-outs in Tower Hamlets are the highest in London, according to a report released by the London Fire Brigade last week.
The report, which is based on the 2008/9 figures, shows that fire fighters were called 1,688 times in Tower Hamlets alone. The numbers are particularly astonishing in comparison to other boroughs like Sutton, where there were only 49 calls in total.
By law, the fire brigade is not required to attend these non- emergency calls. This week they have exercised their right to start charging owners and managers of buildings who persistently call out the fire brigade due to faulty lifts.
Lift owners and operators will have to pay for the service on every ten lift releases in a specific building during a 12-month period. This would have a significant impact on Tower Hamlets, as fire fighters were called to 27 different buildings in the area more than ten times in the last year.
London Fire Brigade chair Brian Coleman said: “Public safety is our priority and fire fighters will always attend genuine emergencies where people are shut in lifts and other means of rescue are not available. However, it doesn’t make sense for us to waste fire fighters time and public resources releasing people where there has not been an emergency.”
“Lift owners need to make proper provisions for their lifts – NOT fire fighters”, he continued.
In 2008/9, the fire brigade received more than 14,000 such calls, each taking up the time that would otherwise be spent attending emergency incidents, carrying out community work, and providing training for fire fighters. One in every ten calls received is to release a person trapped in a lift, and accounts for 61% of all cases. Tower Hamlets is responsible for 11.6% of these calls.
Shahia Abrar, who lives on the Exmouth Estate in Shadwell, said that she and her young son were trapped when a lift broke down earlier this year. “We weren’t in there long, the fire brigade came quickly and sorted it out, but it was a horrible experience. I thought we would be in there a while, which was scary, especially with a small child.”
The report comes just weeks after disenfranchised tenants of Latham House, a housing association property in Tower Hamlets, complained to the council about the state of their living conditions. Kyle Wallace, a resident, said: “We have seen the buildings deteriorate into a filthy, unsanitary, unsafe place to live.”
“The lifts are regularly vandalised due to the buildings being open at night,” Mr Wallace complained.