Residents left 'out of the loop' and homeless following communication breakdown after Fountainbridge explosion

Lessons must be learned from the aftermath of the Fountainbridge explosion a Conservative councillor has said after people were left out of the loop of temporary accommodation provision.

Tuesday, 17th September 2019, 5:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th September 2019, 6:28 pm
The aftermath to the explosion in Fountainbridge.

Councillor Jo Mowat, who represents the City Centre ward in which the fire took place, urged the council to review the way it deals with emergency situations after individuals were left unaware of critical information about how to access emergency accommodation after an apparent communication breakdown between police and the council.

The council were given permission by police to bypass GDPR and contact directly the worst affected residents in two properties, 2 Ponton Street and 111 Fountainbridge but the police did not ask for other residents who were blocked from entering their homes to be contacted.

Instead, following the explosion and ensuing fire which left one person dead, residents of the Chalmers Buildings were told by police that they could stay at the temporary rest centre in the Salvation Army in Gorgie Road.

However, it was not made clear that this was the only way for residents to access temporary accommodation through the council or ensure contact about the state of their properties and when they could go home.

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One affected resident said: “When I turned up to my flat on Tuesday, I was referred to the Salvation Army in Gorgie by police but I ended up staying at a friend’s place that night.

“It’s far from ideal. It may be that those who went to the shelter were being kept more up to date but I gave my details to a police officer when I arrived there and haven’t heard since.

“The police were not exactly overly helpful when I arrived there.”

Cllr Mowat said it was “disappointing” to hear people fell through the cracks and added that “lessons should be learned” going forward for emergency responses.

Cllr Mowat said: “If this has shown up an issue that GDPR means we can’t use some of the records we have to get people information that obviously they want to know, then we, as a council, need to take a review as to whether or not this is the case.

“There is always going to be the first time you deal with a situation relating to GDPR, and we just need to be smarter and make sure that you have used everything that we can to make sure that we have contacted everyone needs to know.”

“There is disappointment that something done by the council or one of the emergency services has had an impact on people’s access to their homes, and if we have not given clear instructions, then you have to go away and learn from it because that is not right.”

Councillor Cammy Day, deputy leader, said: “We are in close communication with directly affected residents and have ensured alternative accommodation for all those displaced by the fire. We are also working with the police to share updates with those in neighbouring properties.

“A dedicated liaison team consisting of officers from across the Council is being established to provide support to residents and businesses in the area. All those affected will be contacted with information on how to access the service.”

The concerns come on the day Tollcross Primary School reopens to pupils and a full week after the suspected gas explosion rocked the building.

Road closures are still in place at Ponton Street and Gardner’s Crescent.

Police Scotland declined to comment.