Just before 3am on Saturday 21st October, some residents in the Bromyard House block on the Ledbury Estate were awoken to the deafening sound of the fire alarm system going off simultaneously in various rooms within their flats. Aware that the 'Stay Put' policy in the towers has now been replaced by a 'Get Out' policy, many residents rushed to exit their flats and evacuate the building, banging on their neighbours doors along the way, and helping other residents down the escape stairwell, including elderly residents, those with frightened young children, medical conditions, as well as beloved pets.
The evacuation was by all accounts chaotic, with the Southwark Council employed fire marshals absent from their posts on some floors, and not following the correct protocol in reporting the matter to the manager on duty, directing or helping residents to the evacuation point, or alerting the fire brigade.
Residents stood around for almost an hour in the cold and rain. Many, including young children, dressed only in underwear or pyjamas. Residents attempted to raise concerns with the fire marshals over elderly and disabled neighbours who they had not seen emerge from the building, or to get answers on what was happening, but were ignored.
Eventually, it was a resident who telephoned the London Fire Brigade, who attended and silenced the alarms which had gone off in error.
The following morning, many residents from Bromyard House immediately wrote letters of complaint to the Ledbury Estate manager Mike Tyrell and the Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr. Stephanie Cryan.
One resident said :'I had to help a young boy go down the stairs while I held my own baby. That poor boys face will stick in my mind, the fear he was experiencing was unacceptable.'
Another resident said: 'Not one fire warden alerted me to the situation or was around.'
Another said: 'Luckily this was a false alarm but again it has highlighted major failings'.
Some Bromyard residents met with the Ledbury managers Mike Tyrell and Cheryl Russell at noon on Saturday 21st October to log their concerns and complaints and express how traumatic the experience was.
Later that day, a letter went out to all Bromyard residents from Mike Tyrell on behalf of Southwark Council stating:
'I am not at all happy that this has happened and I cannot apologise enough for how this has frightened a number of you. It appears that the new communal fire alarm went off. This should not have happened.'
Cllr. Stephanie Cryan responded to complaints saying:
'I am really angry with the behaviour of some of the wardens as this goes totally against the briefings they have been given and is unacceptable.'
A Bromyard resident, reacting to the responses from Southwark stated: 'Their response is useless, it doesn't make me feel any reassurance at all.'
A full investigation is due to be carried out over what went wrong, not only with the new fire alarm system which wasn't meant to be active yet, but also into the failings of the fire marshals and how fire safety protocols and procedures are still failing so drastically. This comes after a fire evacuation a few weeks ago in Skenfrith House, and a false fire alarm in Peterchurch House in July where protocols weren't followed and lessons were supposedly learned as a result.