Fire safety in prisons and TBS clinics improved

The fire safety in prisons, TBS clinics and other custodial institutions has improved significantly in recent years. The four state inspectorates conclude in a joint investigation that only privately-managed institutions are trailing behind.

The inspectorates assessed the status of fire safety five years after the fire at the Schiphol-Oost detention centre. Previous inspectorate investigations in 2006 and 2007 led to measures and recommendations to improve fire safety and the guaranteeing thereof. At the end of 2010, the VROM Inspectorate (VI) in cooperation with the Labour Inspectorate (AI), the Public Order and Safety Inspectorate (OOV Inspectorate) and the Implementation of Sanctions Inspectorate (ISt), investigated the effect of those recommendations and measures.

Fifteen of the approximately one hundred institutions that come under the responsibility of the Custodial Institutions Agency were visited for the purpose of the investigation. Twelve investigated institutions are managed by the Government Buildings Agency. Ten of those are operated by the Custodial Institutions Agency, the remaining two by a private organisation (semi-private). At three institutions, both the building management and operation are in private hands.

Fire safety has improved substantially at government and semi-private institutions and is sufficient, although there is still some room for improvement. The inspectorates conclude on the basis of their investigation that, by contrast, the structural and organisational fire safety in the private institutions is still insufficient.

The guarantees and fire safety awareness have improved, but they do require continued attention. "Fire safety is a process and not a product", according to the inspectorates. They urge for strict (contractual) fire safety requirements with respect to private institutions. They furthermore argue in favour of more uniform guidelines for escape route indicators, delaying fire detection installations and fire safety of furnishings and layout of cells. Those recommendations are adopted by the responsible Ministers of Security and Justice and of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.

In the event of serious structural defects, the Custodial Institutions Agency and the municipalities were informed directly by the VROM Inspectorate and appropriate measures were taken immediately.

Four institutions were requested by the Labour Inspectorate to take measures to resolve shortcomings in the field of company emergency response.

State Secretary Teeven of Security and Justice and Minister Donner of the Interior and Kingdom Relations write in a response to the Lower House, that the general conclusion drawn from the investigation confirms that the investments made in recent years have led to a responsible level of fire safety. The findings with respect to private institutions were reason, however, to request the VROM Inspectorate, in its coordinating role, to also investigate the other private institutions. This investigation will commence before the end of this year.