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Residents feel 'safe as houses' at Northfleet high-rise Carl Ekman House after Grenfell Tower 'wake up call'

PUBLISHED: 11:50 29 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:57 29 June 2017

Carl Ekman House in Northfleet

Carl Ekman House in Northfleet

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Fire fighters are checking over high-rise buildings across the county

The view from the eighth floor of Carl Ekman House in NorthfleetThe view from the eighth floor of Carl Ekman House in Northfleet

Towering 14 storeys above surrounding houses, residents in a Northfleet apartment block say they feel “safe as houses” despite the Grenfell Tower tragedy just weeks ago, which one fire chief has branded a “wake up call” for safety.

Since the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14, firefighters have been knocking on doors across Kent’s apartment blocks, reassuring occupants of their safety and giving them the best advice on what to do should a fire break out.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s visit to brick-built Carl Ekman House in Northfleet marked the 26th apartment block checked over since visits began on June 19.

It meant fire fighters had reached the half-way point in checking the county’s 20 high-rise blocks that stretch more than 10 storeys.

Fire safety procedure posted next to the lifts in Nortfleet's 14-storey Carl Ekman HouseFire safety procedure posted next to the lifts in Nortfleet's 14-storey Carl Ekman House

Fire fighters started from the top of the building, named after a Swedish chemical engineer and paper manufacturer who set up near the site in the 1880s, speaking to residents inside each of its 52 apartments.

On the fifth floor, Ron Hopkins said he felt “safe as houses” since moving in 18 months ago.

“People were worried after what happened in London, but the council have already fitted sprinkler systems in all of our rooms, and there’s upcoming checks on our smoke alarms, the local authority are really on top of things and this visit today has made us all feel safer,” he said.

Following the visit, Ian Thomson, assistant director for community safety at KFRS, said: “We routinely make visits to all of our high rise blocks, but we’ve brought them forward because of the incident in London, we’re mainly here to reassure residents, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, since Grenfell we’ve seen a slight increase in queries but nothing major.

“I think recent events have been a wake up call for people, they are now thinking about their safety.

“The main thing we’ve been saying to people is to plan their escape, if you’re in this type of building then there will be procedures, but the most important thing is making sure you have a working smoke alarm and safe route to escape in the event of a fire.”

KFRS say it is “a matter of weeks, not months” until checks are carried out at all of Kent’s apartment blocks.

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