Sheffield leisure centre boss defends staff over evacuation procedures

Hillsborough Leisure Centre. Picture: Google
Hillsborough Leisure Centre. Picture: Google

The boss of a Sheffield leisure centre has defended staff security procedures after customers described chaotic scenes during an emergency evacuation.

Gym users and people swimming in the pool were told to leave Hillsborough Leisure Centre at about 5pm last night.

About 200 people - some still in swimming gear wrapped in foil blankets - were spotted congregating outside the facility just off Penistone Road after the smoke alarm had been accidentally set off.

Mum Tina York, who was evacuated from the building with her two daughters, claimed staff 'reacted slowly' to two announcements triggering the evacuation and said staff caused alarm by shouting 'get away from the building' outside because no loud speakers were available.

She added it was also unclear how customers were supposed to escape the building and not enough blankets were provided for youngsters - some of which were still stood in their swimming costumers in cold conditions.

But Steve Culf, business centre and group domestic service manager at the leisure centre, defended staff procedures.

He said: "The fire service advised us the building should remain closed until the alarm had been fully investigated and reset. This took us longer than usual as the sensor was in a location that is difficult to access.

“As per our operating procedures we distributed blankets to all customers who needed them and our staff also returned into the building – under supervision of the fire service – to retrieve customers’ belongings.

“We understand that an evacuation of a building can be a worrying experience for all involved, particularly the young. However, our staff are encouraged to be vocal and to ensure customers are escorted swiftly and safely to designated areas.”

A spokesperson added that there was no fire and the alarm had been set off by accident. The centre reopened at 8pm.