‘It was horrendous’ - Unstoppable alarm causes Christmas hell for pensioners

PUBLISHED: 15:21 31 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:06 01 January 2019

George Hacon outside Barkers Herne sheltered housing in Cromer. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

George Hacon outside Barkers Herne sheltered housing in Cromer. Picture: STUART ANDERSON


Residents at a Norfolk retirement complex had anything but a ‘silent night’ when a relentless fire alarm turned their Christmas Day into a festive hell.

The noise from the alarms at Barkers Herne sheltered accommodation in Cromer, which were on from 1.05pm to about 10pm on Christmas Day, was described as “horrendous” by residents and their relatives.

One resident, 82-year-old George Hacon, said: “It was in every flat and every room. We were starting to think about evacuating and taking everyone down to the Methodist church because there was no way you could have slept with that noise. Most people had to put earplugs or cotton in their ears. It was horrendous.”

Norfolk Fire and Rescue said cooking fumes from a microwave set off the device, and although a fire engine was sent, the firefighters could not turn off the screech.

Barkers Herne is run by Orbit but Careline services the alarms. However, on Christmas Eve there was a change in the way the system operated, and it was unclear who was responsible for coming to turn the racket off.

Barkers Herne sheltered housing in Cromer. Picture: STUART ANDERSONBarkers Herne sheltered housing in Cromer. Picture: STUART ANDERSON

Mr Hacon said: “We couldn’t do it, we don’t have the codes. We got in touch with Careline, but they didn’t know who they could get to turn the alarm off. At 6pm we were told a man was on his way from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, but he had another call on the way and didn’t get here till 10pm. In the meantime I called the police to see if there was anything they could do. It was so loud it really deafened you.”

The daughter of another couple who live there, who did not wish to be named, said: “They were all so distressed about it.

“I wouldn’t have been able to stand it for 20 minutes, let alone hours.”

David Boden, Orbit’s head of responsive repairs, said: “We are extremely sorry for the length of time it took to turn the alarm off and sincerely apologise to our customers at Barkers Herne for any distress this caused them on Christmas Day.

“We want to assure our customers that procedures are in place to ensure this does not happen again.

“We will continue to work with our contractors to ensure that a prompt call-out is achieved should the alarm sound again in the future.”

Barkers Herne has 30 flats, and some residents are in their 90s.

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