A ‘Life Safety’ approach and Traveller engagement essential to sustain fire safety for Travellers

We welcome the ‘Life Safety’ approach adopted by the Dept. of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and its engagement with Traveller organisations in producing its ‘Report on Programme to Review and Enhance Fire Safety in Local Authority Provided Traveller Accommodation’.

This initiative was taken in the wake of the Carrickmines fire tragedy in which 10 Travellers, including 5 children, died.

It is clear from this report that there are significant fire safety issues on Traveller halting sites.  This is something Traveller organisations have been aware of for some time and we have been actively involved in delivering fire safety awareness and bringing this issue to the attention of local authorities.

The high level of fire safety issues is lamentable but not unexpected and is a sign of the overcrowded and sub-standard living conditions that Travellers continue to experience in Ireland today.

 The key findings of  the Report on the Review of Fire Safety are as follows:

  •  The lack of a working smoke alarm was identified as an issue in 76% of Accommodation Units. Of these, 74% have been supplied with a smoke alarm

  •  The lack of a working carbon monoxide alarm was identified as an issue in 72% of Accommodation Units. Of these, 70% have been supplied with a carbon monoxide alarm

  •  The lack of a Fire blanket to assist with first aid fire-fighting was identified as an issue in 73% of the Accommodation Units appraised. 42% of the Accommodation  Units appraised have now been provided with a fire blanket

  •  Access restrictions were identified as an issue concern at 42% of the sites appraised. Remedial works have been implemented at 71% of these sites

  •  Separation distances distance between Traveller Accommodation units was identified as an issue of concern in 58% of the sites appraised. Of these, 44% have had remedial work undertaken

  •  The Configuration of Adjacent Units within pitches/bays was determined to be an issue affecting 61% of the sites appraised. Of these, 68% have had remedial works implemented

  •  The condition of electrical installations generally, and in particular, the improper external use of multiple plug adaptors, was identified as an issue in 78% of the sites appraised. Of these, 53% have had remedial works carried out

  •  The absence of a Fire Safety Information Notice was identified as an issue at 54% of the sites appraised. Of these, 15% have now had Notices erected

  •  Of the sites appraised, 50% did not have a designated Fire Point in place. Of these, 12% have now had a Fire Point established on-site  

Proper Accommodation

It is clear to us that the solution to this is – the provision of decent Traveller specific accommodation around the country with suitable facilities.

This is part of the Government’s responsibility under its Traveller Accommodation Programmes which local authorities have so far failed to implement.  To this end we look forward to the Housing Agency review of local authority spending on Traveller accommodation due by the end of the year.

No Evictions

We highlight that ‘Life Safety’ must take into account the further hardship and psychological damage that evictions carried out on the basis of safety issues could cause.  Fire safety solutions should not come at the cost of quality of life or quality of living conditions.

We continue to call on Minister Simon Coveney TD to ban Traveller evictions until proper Traveller accommodation is provided.


Sustain Fire Safety for Travellers

We welcome the fact that the report acknowledges that Traveller engagement is ‘essential’ to improving the level of fire safety on sites.

We would also highlight the need for a consistent and sustainable approach to continuing fire safety for Travellers.  To this end a Code of Practice is key to ensuring ongoing fire safety awareness among Travellers and regular fire safety audits in conjunction with local authorities with effective remedies built in to this approach.

It is important to acknowledge that as the majority of Travellers live in standard local authority housing and private rented sector – these are other areas that need to be brought into the scope of this initiative.  Click below for full report.