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Saturday, 7 June 2014


The fire alarm has sounded several times today. I want to ensure that no one is confused about it. 


That's the most important message to remember. If you're still interested in what's been happening, read on...

Following the fire on Tuesday night, we had reports that some people's sounders didn't go off, so they slept through the whole thing. 

So THIS AFTERNOON, between 11:45 and 12:00, we tested the sounders in those rooms and a random selection of other rooms. In fact, we only found one sounder that wasn't quite right and that is being repaired very urgently. We sent an email to everyone yesterday warning you that we would be testing the alarm for that fifteen-minute period. 

We are going to conduct another test of all sounders in the building in the summer, but to do that we shall have to ring the alarm for about half an hour continuously, so that will be after you have all left. 

TONIGHT at around 22:30, burnt food set off the smoke detector in the fourth-floor pantry. The Duty Senior Member saw there was no fire and no hazard, so the alarm was silenced. Our guidelines are that we will silence the alarm only if it sounds for less than five seconds; if it's been sounding for more than five seconds, even if there isn't a fire, we will conduct a full evacuation. Unfortunately, on this occasion, there was so much smoke that the alarm kept being re-triggered, so you might have heard brief bursts from the alarm about five times. That's very unusual. 

We are not planning any more tests or practices. So from now on, if you hear the fire alarm ringing for more than five seconds, please do leave the building by the shortest route. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Did you not hear the fire alarm?

We are hearing reports that some people failed to evacuate the building last night. One or two people think they did not hear the fire alarm sounding.

The alarm sounded for 13 minutes at 02:00, and everyone who did evacuate was out in less than 10 minutes, which is satisfactory for a night-time alarm when most people would be sleeping.

No one reported their fire alarm sounder not working on Saturday, when we held a fire practice.

If you did not wake up last night when the fire alarm sounded (so presumably only found out about the evacuation this morning), it is imperative that you contact us immediately at to tell us that you did not hear the alarm.

We will need to check the sounder in your room to ensure that you and future occupants of that room do hear the evacuation signal to allow them to leave the Hall safely and in a timely manner in the event of an emergency.

At Connaught Hall, we always tell you in advance if we plan to hold a fire practice. That way, if you hear the alarm and we have not given prior warning, you can be reasonably certain that there is a genuine emergency and you must get out. Pre-warning about fire practices also means you can look for the shortest escape rout even before the drill so you get used to leaving the building by the safest route, rather than always going through the front door.

During planned fire drills, we check every room to make sure you have left. But in a real emergency, we do not check any rooms. We might only have two members of staff in the building at night (as a guaranteed minimum), and they have other responsibilities during an evacuation. It would not be safe for me to ask our staff to knock on every door trying to ensure that everyone has evacuated.

Your personal safety is your personal responsibility. Please always evacuate when you hear the fire alarm sound for more than 5 seconds.

Fire 4th June 2014

Those of us who were in the Hall at 2 o'clock this morning were awoken by the fire alarm.

(If you were in but did not evacuate / did not hear the alarm, please see this post as well:

There was a real fire inside the third-floor ladies' bathroom. The fire brigade attended and made the area safe within about an hour and a quarter, so that by 3:30 everyone was allowed back into their rooms. We did have some rooms available to move residents into if their own rooms (on the third and fourth floors) were too smoky to spend the night in.

The evacuation at 2 am was calm and efficient. Everyone was very patient, waiting until the fire brigade allowed us back inside. I want to thank everyone who was here - staff but even more so, residents - for the way you conducted yourselves during the emergency.

I can confirm that nobody was injured last night.

There is significant damage to the affected bathroom, which will require a complete refurbishment. The electrics were also damaged but we were fortunately able to isolate the bathroom circuit without losing power to anybody's bedrooms.

Now we need to work out exactly what happened. The fire brigade believe there are suspicious circumstances around how the fire started - that this was either a deliberately started fire, or at the very least, that someone was doing something they shouldn't have been doing in the bathroom that could have led to an accidental fire.

If you know anything about how the fire started last night, please come and talk to me in confidence. If you think you might have done something that could have accidentally caused this fire, please come and speak with me urgently, before this becomes a full criminal (police) and internal (disciplinary) investigation.

I will be in my office on the ground floor today (Wednesday):

  • 3:00 to 3:30 pm
  • 7:30 to 8:00 pm

Or feedback to a senior member if you don't feel you can approach me directly.

We do already have a number of leads to follow-up, and we are being assisted by the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade Fire Investigation Unit. So any more detail to flesh out those little bones of information will be welcomed, even if you are unsure whether or not what you saw or heard was significant.

I also will take this opportunity to remind everyone of the correct action to take if you suspect there is a fire. At least four people were talking about a lot of smoke coming from the bathroom before a senior member went to investigate and set off the alarm.

If ever you suspect there is a fire in Hall, please break the glass on a red fire alarm point to start the evacuation. Every minute that a fire continues to burn without us getting people out of the building places people in greater danger from smoke and fire.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Connaught Hall annual photo 2014 is now available

It has been very difficult to schedule our annual photo this year because the weather has been so bad for late May. But we finally did manage to get together outside the front of the Hall on Saturday afternoon.

The full-resolution photos are available to download from our Flickr photostream here:

You can also purchase hardcopy prints of this year's photo direct from Photobox: No money from the sale of these photographs come to Connaught Hall; you only pay for the cost of printing and delivery charge.