Councillors in fire register snub
EDENBRIDGE town councillors have rebelled against fire safety advice over concerns for their privacy.
Councillors were asked to sign a visitors' book whenever they entered the council offices at Doggetts Barn, in case a fire meant the building had to be evacuated.
Three councillors said they would refuse to sign the book, however, and one even suggested a better option would be to spend hundreds of pounds installing a CCTV-type system so staff could see who was in the upstairs room, rather than have people sign in as they entered.
The issue was raised after the fire risk assessment concluded council staff should find a way of knowing who was in the building in case of fire.
Town clerk Christine Lane asked for advice from the council's insurers and was told that, if a fire assessment had demanded a visitors' sign-in book then this should be enforced.
In an e-mail, the insurers said: "If there is anyone unaccounted for, then the fire brigade has to decide whether or not to risk the lives of its personnel to go searching a burning building for a trapped person – or to decide not to search the building if the book showed that all people were accounted for.
"Would those not signing want to be held responsible for a fire officer's death?"
The issue was discussed at Monday's full council meeting where, after about 15 minutes of discussion, council chairman Clive Pearman said: "We're splitting hairs.
"In one way it makes sense to have a book and have people sign in – you know how fast these buildings go up and you've got no time to look upstairs."
Eventually it was decided a visitors' book would be used, but councillors could decide whether or not to use it.
They were requested, regardless, to make council staff aware when they were going upstairs.