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Council / Flea secures support for care home fire safety motion

Councillor Allison Duncan. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

AN ELECTED member who wants to see officers explore the costs of additional fire safety measures in local care homes has won the support of fellow councillors.

Shetland South’s Allison Duncan has long called for mist sprinkler systems installed in council care homes.

He brought a motion to a meeting of the full council earlier today (Wednesday), signed by numerous colleagues, which was approved.

Duncan stressed he was not suggesting care homes are unsafe and that any “panic measures” are needed.

The motion formally instructed council officers to explore the merits, or otherwise, and costs of the installation of a “water suppressant system” such as a mist sprinkler.

The motion asks for the council to report back to elected members later this year.

“This is to ensure that the health, service users and staff is of paramount consideration, and that the opportunity for safe evacuation in the event of a fire is maximised,” it concluded.

In recent years consultants undertook a report on fire safety provision in three Shetland care homes, which conceded that all met current legislative standards and had good fire safety management.

But there were some areas of improvement, including removing curtains and soft furnishings from escape routes.

Integration joint board chair Emma Macdonald said the independent report highlighted a “gold standard level of fire safety” in care homes.

“Since that report further works have been carried out,” she said.

Macdonald said she would be more concerned about fire safety when it comes to the push for more people being cared for at home.

Shetland Central member Moraig Lyall questioned though if resources would be going in the right place if the motion was passed.

She believed some of the answers to the motion, such as the merits of new mist sprinkler system, would already be known without the need for a report.

Lyall felt the cost of new sprinkler systems could run into the millions and money may be better spent in areas offering immediate return such as upgrading council homes.

“Thankfully care home fires are extremely rare,” Lyall said, adding that new sprinkler systems would “almost certainly be never used”.

Shetland West member Catherine Hughson said she signed the motion in part because when the care homes were built they were designed for more able bodied clients.

Meanwhile North Isles Ryan Thomson – who said he previously worked in a care home – said safety of clients should be of “utmost priority” and highlighted that the motion is only asking for a report on costs at this stage.