Children trapped by locked fire exit

First published in Southend

A GROUP of young children were trapped behind a locked fire escape at a leisure centre when a fire alarm sounded.

The youngsters aged five to seven year olds had been training with Essex Stars cheerleading squad at Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre in Garon Park when an alarm went off.

The group of 18 children were evacuated by their coach Rachel Blatch and two adult helpers from the first floor bar being used as a studio down some stairs but the fire exit doors were chained and padlocked shut.

One mum, who didn’t want to be named, said: “They couldn’t get out. What if that had been a real fire? I hate to think what would have happened.”

It happened during a power cut which affected 1,162 homes and businesses in the area.

Rachel, who has run Essex Stars from the centre for three years, said; “The children screamed when the lights went out. Then the alarm went off seconds later and the tannoy said to evacuate we told them to pair up and get in a line and they really well behaved and not panicking.

“We tried to go down stairs to get to the parents and were told by staff to go another way but we got to the bottom and the door was chained and padlocked.

“It was a shock I had 18 children eight and under in my control and all my responsibility and we didn’t know what the alarm was for. We hadn’t been told it was a drill but I just thought about their safety and getting them out.

“I hope the centre learns from this. I have asked for a written apology from the manager.”

The group ended up going back up the stairs one floor through the gym and out the main entrance to be met by anxious parents who had seen the whole thing through the glazed stairwell.

Rachel added: “The children followed my instructions perfectly I’m so proud of them. They made a difficult situation easier.

“The parents understandably were extremely unhappy. The manager told us they were going to look into what had happened.”

Parkwood Leisure who run the centre for Southend Council said it is investigating.

Joanne Martin, sales and marketing director at Parkwood, said: “We are taking the incident very seriously and a formal investigation has been started.

“Until that investigation has been completed, it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further.”

Comments (16)

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10:59am Thu 22 Nov 12

reptile says...

With such a relaxed attitude to safety the place should be closed immediately pending staff re-training.
With such a relaxed attitude to safety the place should be closed immediately pending staff re-training. reptile
  • Score: 6

11:12am Thu 22 Nov 12

r6keith says...

Rachel. This situation needs more than an apology and immediate investigation to why a fire exit was padlocked shut , if heads need to role so be it , the person responsible for padlocking those doors could be on a manslaughter charge this morning. Fortunately this alarm triggered by a power cut has high lighted a very dangerous act by someone in a building used by the public. If you have problems with a fire exit security you fit alarms and cameras you NEVER LOCK IT !
Rachel. This situation needs more than an apology and immediate investigation to why a fire exit was padlocked shut , if heads need to role so be it , the person responsible for padlocking those doors could be on a manslaughter charge this morning. Fortunately this alarm triggered by a power cut has high lighted a very dangerous act by someone in a building used by the public. If you have problems with a fire exit security you fit alarms and cameras you NEVER LOCK IT ! r6keith
  • Score: 8

12:05pm Thu 22 Nov 12

Olivia2847 says...

r6keith wrote:
Rachel. This situation needs more than an apology and immediate investigation to why a fire exit was padlocked shut , if heads need to role so be it , the person responsible for padlocking those doors could be on a manslaughter charge this morning. Fortunately this alarm triggered by a power cut has high lighted a very dangerous act by someone in a building used by the public. If you have problems with a fire exit security you fit alarms and cameras you NEVER LOCK IT !
I don't believe that this could have happened - gross and criminal negligence here that has to be addresses and prosecution considered surely!
[quote][p][bold]r6keith[/bold] wrote: Rachel. This situation needs more than an apology and immediate investigation to why a fire exit was padlocked shut , if heads need to role so be it , the person responsible for padlocking those doors could be on a manslaughter charge this morning. Fortunately this alarm triggered by a power cut has high lighted a very dangerous act by someone in a building used by the public. If you have problems with a fire exit security you fit alarms and cameras you NEVER LOCK IT ![/p][/quote]I don't believe that this could have happened - gross and criminal negligence here that has to be addresses and prosecution considered surely! Olivia2847
  • Score: 5

12:06pm Thu 22 Nov 12

freecomment says...

Report to H&SE. A written warning and an inspection due. Maybe 'advice' from the Fire Service too!
Report to H&SE. A written warning and an inspection due. Maybe 'advice' from the Fire Service too! freecomment
  • Score: 2

12:12pm Thu 22 Nov 12

Ian P says...

r6keith wrote:
Rachel. This situation needs more than an apology and immediate investigation to why a fire exit was padlocked shut , if heads need to role so be it , the person responsible for padlocking those doors could be on a manslaughter charge this morning. Fortunately this alarm triggered by a power cut has high lighted a very dangerous act by someone in a building used by the public. If you have problems with a fire exit security you fit alarms and cameras you NEVER LOCK IT !
I agree with you totally. It may have only happened once so far, but that is once too often. In fact as I read the article I was thinking that the written apology requested by the coach should be received at the bottom of the Manager's resignation letter.
[quote][p][bold]r6keith[/bold] wrote: Rachel. This situation needs more than an apology and immediate investigation to why a fire exit was padlocked shut , if heads need to role so be it , the person responsible for padlocking those doors could be on a manslaughter charge this morning. Fortunately this alarm triggered by a power cut has high lighted a very dangerous act by someone in a building used by the public. If you have problems with a fire exit security you fit alarms and cameras you NEVER LOCK IT ![/p][/quote]I agree with you totally. It may have only happened once so far, but that is once too often. In fact as I read the article I was thinking that the written apology requested by the coach should be received at the bottom of the Manager's resignation letter. Ian P
  • Score: 5

12:42pm Thu 22 Nov 12

Eric Whim says...

r6keith wrote:
Rachel. This situation needs more than an apology and immediate investigation to why a fire exit was padlocked shut , if heads need to role so be it , the person responsible for padlocking those doors could be on a manslaughter charge this morning. Fortunately this alarm triggered by a power cut has high lighted a very dangerous act by someone in a building used by the public. If you have problems with a fire exit security you fit alarms and cameras you NEVER LOCK IT !
has Gordon Brittas taken over as manager?
[quote][p][bold]r6keith[/bold] wrote: Rachel. This situation needs more than an apology and immediate investigation to why a fire exit was padlocked shut , if heads need to role so be it , the person responsible for padlocking those doors could be on a manslaughter charge this morning. Fortunately this alarm triggered by a power cut has high lighted a very dangerous act by someone in a building used by the public. If you have problems with a fire exit security you fit alarms and cameras you NEVER LOCK IT ![/p][/quote]has Gordon Brittas taken over as manager? Eric Whim
  • Score: 3

2:28pm Thu 22 Nov 12

crimsonking says...

Apart from the very serious danger and distress this stupidity caused the centre is also in breach of the Fire Safety Order (2005) Prosecutions for breaches of the order can run into the 10s of thousands of pounds. I think an inspection of the premises by the Fire service (at Parkwoods expense naturally) is in order. This will help identify any further problems and mean Parkwood HAVE to take the situation seriously.
Apart from the very serious danger and distress this stupidity caused the centre is also in breach of the Fire Safety Order (2005) Prosecutions for breaches of the order can run into the 10s of thousands of pounds. I think an inspection of the premises by the Fire service (at Parkwoods expense naturally) is in order. This will help identify any further problems and mean Parkwood HAVE to take the situation seriously. crimsonking
  • Score: 0

2:30pm Thu 22 Nov 12

emcee says...

This is NOT a matter for internal investigation. This is a matter for a full exteranl investigation by the Health and Saftey Exexutive and possibly even further. Head MUST, MUST, MUST roll here, including the Manager as the buck stops with them. Someone was grossly neglegent and certainly not fit for their job by putting so many lives at risk.
This is NOT a matter for internal investigation. This is a matter for a full exteranl investigation by the Health and Saftey Exexutive and possibly even further. Head MUST, MUST, MUST roll here, including the Manager as the buck stops with them. Someone was grossly neglegent and certainly not fit for their job by putting so many lives at risk. emcee
  • Score: 0

3:12pm Thu 22 Nov 12

GentleGiant says...

The manager and site need reporting straight away - they need to brought to book.

I would hope that action is taken - even if a member of the public reports them who were not involved.
The manager and site need reporting straight away - they need to brought to book. I would hope that action is taken - even if a member of the public reports them who were not involved. GentleGiant
  • Score: 0

3:24pm Thu 22 Nov 12

notinwestcliffanymore says...

If this was a pub or club Danny barnes would already have his face in the paper wanting to close it down.
If this was a pub or club Danny barnes would already have his face in the paper wanting to close it down. notinwestcliffanymore
  • Score: -1

4:25pm Thu 22 Nov 12

firedog says...

This is another example of people thinking,it will never happen here,someone needs to be accountable,and in this instance,looking for another job with a lot less responsibility.
This is another example of people thinking,it will never happen here,someone needs to be accountable,and in this instance,looking for another job with a lot less responsibility. firedog
  • Score: 0

5:08pm Thu 22 Nov 12

whataday says...

I thought it was an offence to block a Fire Exit never mind padlock it. The person/s responsible for ordering it to be locked should be sacked immediately for Gross Misconduct
There is absolutely no excuse for a Fire Exit door to be locked
I thought it was an offence to block a Fire Exit never mind padlock it. The person/s responsible for ordering it to be locked should be sacked immediately for Gross Misconduct There is absolutely no excuse for a Fire Exit door to be locked whataday
  • Score: 0

6:20pm Thu 22 Nov 12

lovely says...

Another point is why was just one person looking after 18 children , from what i remember the ratio should be one adult to every 6 children.
Another point is why was just one person looking after 18 children , from what i remember the ratio should be one adult to every 6 children. lovely
  • Score: 0

7:44pm Thu 22 Nov 12

allan348 says...

lovely wrote:
Another point is why was just one person looking after 18 children , from what i remember the ratio should be one adult to every 6 children.
Do you work for the leisure Centre?

Try reading the report again, she was with two adult helpers!
[quote][p][bold]lovely[/bold] wrote: Another point is why was just one person looking after 18 children , from what i remember the ratio should be one adult to every 6 children.[/p][/quote]Do you work for the leisure Centre? Try reading the report again, she was with two adult helpers! allan348
  • Score: 1

8:39pm Thu 22 Nov 12

Dids says...

Being a public this building will have a Fire Certificate with various demands plus probably a plan of action in case of a fire.
I suggest you raise the issue with the Fire Authority as this is in breach of ANY Fire Certificate when public are on premises.They have the right and powers to do an on the spot inspection at any time
Being a public this building will have a Fire Certificate with various demands plus probably a plan of action in case of a fire. I suggest you raise the issue with the Fire Authority as this is in breach of ANY Fire Certificate when public are on premises.They have the right and powers to do an on the spot inspection at any time Dids
  • Score: 0

12:34pm Fri 23 Nov 12

erwinrommel says...

Fire Certificates haven't existed since 2006!
The current legislation requires any buildings other than domestic premises to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment & provide adequate General Fire Precautions, amongst other things.
This premises appears to have fallen short of the requirements.
Details on the current legislation and how to complain if you believe a premises is not meeting it's obligations can be found at:
http://www.essex-fir
e.gov.uk/pages/index
.asp?area=6
Fire Certificates haven't existed since 2006! The current legislation requires any buildings other than domestic premises to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment & provide adequate General Fire Precautions, amongst other things. This premises appears to have fallen short of the requirements. Details on the current legislation and how to complain if you believe a premises is not meeting it's obligations can be found at: http://www.essex-fir e.gov.uk/pages/index .asp?area=6 erwinrommel
  • Score: 0

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