Fire safety conference switches venue due to fire safety concerns

Conference organisers say problems with disability access could compromise safety

 The front of the Printworks building at Dublin Castle which was refurbished and opened for Ireland’s hosting of the European presidency in 2013. Photograph: David Sleator

The front of the Printworks building at Dublin Castle which was refurbished and opened for Ireland’s hosting of the European presidency in 2013. Photograph: David Sleator

 

An international conference on ensuring the safety of disabled people in burning buildings, due to take place in Dublin Castle in April, has had to switch venue due to concerns over the safety of disabled delegates.

The conference, Fire Safety for All, was scheduled to be held in the Printworks building in the lower courtyard of Dublin Castle, which was refurbished and opened for Ireland’s hosting of the European presidency in 2013.

However, conference organisers visiting the building before Christmas discovered a number of problems with disability access which they felt could compromise the safety of some delegates.

These included poor positioning of the access ramp, bollards blocking vehicular access to the ramp, deficiencies in the tactile information for visually impaired people and no visual fire alarm for hearing-impaired people.

“The problems started on the approach to the building,” said organiser CJ Walsh of Fire Ox International. “The access ramp is a considerable distance from the main entrance. It’s a principle now that access for all should be through the main entrance, and there are bollards which would block a taxi from dropping a wheelchair user at the ramp.”

The “tactile information” on the steps – raised surface marking which can be read by visually impaired people – is present on some parts of the entrance steps only, Mr Walsh said. This presents a particular problem leaving the building, especially in an emergency situation, he added.

Glass glazing

“There are similar problems with the glazing,” Mr Walsh said. “Only some are marked to indicate to people with poor sight that there is glass ahead of them; others are not.”

The building’s fire alarm is aural only, he said, even though most alarms now have strobe lighting to indicate to hearing-impaired people that there is a fire.

“I am shocked and stunned that a building so recently renovated for Ireland’s EU presidency is this poorly thought out in terms of accessibility,” Mr Walsh said. “There is a lot that could be done very easily to improve this, but the building managers were not interested.”

The Office of Public Works, which is responsible for Dublin Castle buildings, did not respond to queries from The Irish Times.

The conference, which is being opened by Sean Sherlock, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, has been moved to the nearby Radisson Blu Hotel in Golden Lane.

More than 300 delegates are expected to attend the conference on April 9th and 10th.