Surrey Towers residents safety concerns as water supply issues affect sprinkler systems in tower block

October 15, 2018
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Runnymede Borough Council (RBC) failed to inform residents living in a 17-storey Addlestone tower block that their sprinkler system would not work when the building was struck by water supply issues last month, it has been alleged.

However, the borough council has refuted the claims, saying it directly kept residents living in Surrey Towers regularly informed about the water issues.

Almost 100 flats in the tower block were left without running water for two days last month after “defective pumps” led to an issue with their supply.

Bottles of water were left on doorsteps by RBC while the authority installed a tap outside the block of flats to provide residents with drinking water.

The lack of water in the tower block has also led to concerns that the building’s sprinkler systems were temporarily affected.

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RBC began a programme to retrofit sprinklers to flats in Surrey Towers back in 2013 after the council reviewed its fire risk assessment.

More than 20 of the 95 flats were fitted with Automist sprinklers by fire sprinkler company Plumis as of 2015.

When repeatedly asked by SurreyLive if the sprinkler systems were affected by the water supply issues, a spokesman for the council initially denied they were, saying: “The council received no reports of any of the mist systems being affected during this time.”

However, during a meeting with the council’s head of housing, Maggie Ward, mum-of-three Jennifer Cooper, who lives on the 12th floor, claims she was told that the sprinklers were not working properly during this period.

A technical manager from Plumis went on to confirm that the sprinklers would be affected if there was an issue with the main water supply.

It was not until SurreyLive approached the council with this information that a spokesman admitted the sprinklers “were affected by the low water pressure”.

Ms Cooper said she now feels her family is at risk and criticised the council for how they dealt with the water supply issues.

“It just worries me living up here with my kids,” she said.

“I’m sick with worry as my children, who are my whole life, are at risk.

“The council have let us down massively. We were left high and dry.”

A spokesman for RBC said the council kept residents informed about the water issues, saying: “The council regularly kept in direct contact with residents when the water supply to the holding tanks was running at a reduced level due to defective pumps.”

‘I deserve peace of mind’

Other Surrey Towers residents have since questioned why they were not informed by the council about the impact on the building’s sprinkler systems.

David Storey, 55, said residents deserve to know if the building’s sprinklers were temporarily affected.

“We should be informed about the sprinkler systems and have sprinklers in each flat,” he said.

“I work and pay my rent like the majority of people and I deserve peace of mind.”

Natasha Gorman, 23, lives on the seventh floor and said: “No running water and no sprinklers is a worry for us.

“I don’t think the council should have left us in that condition.”

An 89-year-old woman who has lived in Surrey Towers for 30 years, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The council should tell us about these things.

“I can’t get up and down the stairs so it’s a worry for me.”

Munashe Makina, 16, said his flat was left with no running water at all and added it was “concerning” that the sprinklers may not have been working properly.

Surrey Towers, Addlestone
(Image: Sam Mukadam)

In response to such concerns, a spokesman for RBC said the council was reviewing its future fire suppression policy.

“The council has installed a limited number of mist fire suppression systems, on an ad hoc basis, in flats at Surrey Towers,” the spokesman said.

“It is currently reviewing the approach and a report to the housing committee on the future fire suppression policy in Surrey Towers will be considered by members on October 31.

“The council regularly reviews the integrity of the building in respect of fire precaution arrangements and is confident these measures are satisfactory.

In fact the most recent independent fire risk assessment was carried out in January this year.”

When asked about concerns raised by residents, council leader Nick Prescot said he had nothing further to add to the response provided by the RBC spokesman.

‘Fire safety in the spotlight’

As the Grenfell Tower inquiry got underway last September, London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton stressed the importance of sprinklers in residential tower blocks.

“The tragic fire at Grenfell has thrown fire safety into the spotlight,” she said.

“We are calling for residential tower blocks to be retrofitted with sprinklers and they should be mandatory in all new school builds and major refurbishments.

“Sprinklers are the only fire safety system that detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm.

“They save lives and protect property and they are especially important where there are vulnerable residents who would find it difficult to escape, like those with mobility problems.”

The office of Runnymede and Weybridge MP Philip Hammond said the issue at Surrey Towers would be looked into as a “matter of urgency”.

“The water supply in itself is not an issue that has been raised with Philip Hammond specifically by any local residents of Surrey Towers,” a spokesman for his office said.

“However, in view of the recent concerns, we will seek advice from the council as a matter of urgency.”

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Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/surrey-towers-residents-safety-concerns-15221529


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