Dublin apartment residents stayed in during fire due to false alarms

Once they realised alarm was genuine, they had to fight through thick smoke to escape

Tenants paying up to €3,500 a month in an exclusive Dublin apartment block ignored fire alarms during a genuine emergency on Saturday night as they mistakenly assumed it was the latest in a series of false alarms at the development.

The false alarms had been caused in the Marker apartments in the docklands by people improperly triggering them in recent weeks.

Residents said that once they realised the alarm was genuine, they had to fight their way through thick smoke to escape the building.

“We opened the door and there’s smoke everywhere, a cloud of smoke in the whole of the staircase – hallway, stairs, everywhere,” said Eugene Khapkin, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in the Marker.

Mr Khapkin said he had left his apartment after three false alarms in the past three weeks. “This was the first time when I said, ‘That’s enough, it’s a false positive’. So it was the first time I didn’t get out.”

Mr Khapkin said once he was allowed return to his apartment, his bedroom was uninhabitable due to smoke ingress.

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said the issue of false alarms had been raised with Aramark, the company that manages the property. A notice posted by Aramark in a common area within the apartments states that the fire alarm activations "have occurred as a result of persons pushing the fire alarm break-glass units in the lobby areas".

*A spokesman for Aramark confirmed fire alarms had been previously triggered improperly by vandals on last month.  “Some residents did not react accordingly due to the repetitive nature of these incidents.  We are grateful that no one was injured.”

“We are taking all necessary precautions to prevent vandals maliciously triggering false alarms in the building by placing a security team on site to monitor area and a static security guard.”

“[Residents] are so used to the chronic false alarms that people have bought industrial-strength hearing protection,” a resident said.

Smoke damage

A spokesman for Ires Reit, which owns 80 of the 110 apartments in the block, said “everything worked as it should have, the alarms went off and the fire company attended. Everything was checked and restored to normal.” The company will check apartments for smoke damage on Monday.

Another resident said he also assumed the alarm was false and left the apartment only when he saw and smelled smoke. He said that when he got outside the building, “[I] saw some people still in their apartments – a few people tried to wave to them to try to let them know that it was not a false fire alarm and to evacuate,” he said.

The fire, which was in the neighbouring Marker Hotel, was started by an electrical issue in the lift shaft servicing the hotel's spa area. Smoke from the fire, which was contained after the hotel was evacuated, then spread into the apartment building.

Marker hotel general manager Charlie Sheil said that the hotel and the elevator company which supplied the unit were investigating the cause of the fire, “and obviously we are keeping in touch with the fire service”. “Everything is functioning as normal and was straight afterwards as well,” he said. “The only minor damage was to the lift shaft,” he said.

* This article was amended on 6/2/2019 to include a comment from Aramark.