If you live in Crowthorne or the surrounding area, you’ll be familiar with the sound of the Broadmoor Hospital siren, which is tested every Monday morning at 10am.
The wailing siren is sounded for two minutes, followed shortly later by the all clear continuous siren for two minutes.
Broadmoor Hospital has for many years relied on satellite sirens covering local areas including Sandhurst, Wokingham, Bracknell and Camberley to inform communities of an escape.
The siren technology was introduced in 1952 following an escape from the hospital and the subsequent recommendations from an independent inquiry into the escape. The siren was last activated to warn of an escape from the hospital in 1993. Since that time there has been significant investment in improving security at the hospital including the installation of advanced CCTV and perimeter intrusion detection systems.
In addition to the sirens, the hospital has arrangements in place with the local authorities for the immediate notification and cascade of information to all local schools. These arrangements are tested at the beginning of each term. The hospital also has emergency plans in place with Thames Valley Police.
In the event of an incident at the hospital, we would also post updates on the website to keep the public informed. Arrangements are also in place to provide timely information to local and national media agencies, should there be an escape.
Decommissioning Broadmoor Hospital siren
Our new hospital is scheduled to open next year. Offering a much improved clinical environment, this new state of the art, fit for purpose facility will introduce some of the latest security technology available to date.
As a result, at the same time we’ll be switching off all remaining community sirens and replacing them with a single siren, on the hospital grounds. To support this, we’ll be working very closely with Thames Valley Police and making use of their Thames Valley Alert system, a modern and more informative electronic system which employs the use of social media, and telecommunications. This two-way community messaging system delivers the latest policing news specific to each local area in which residents live or work by email, text or telephone.
In the highly unlikely event of a patient escape, the siren will notify residents within the immediate vicinity, whilst the electronic alert system will immediately inform registered residents.
In advance of the patient moves, we’re encouraging as many residents in the below boroughs as possible to sign up for Thames Valley alerts which is simple to use, easy to register and more responsive to local needs.
The sirens have been part of the Broadmoor Hospital security system for over 65 years and although due to huge advances in technology and failure of equipment, they no longer form part of our robust security system. However, we understand that this decommissioning exercise is likely to cause some concern, so have answered some of you most frequently asked questions below. Should you require any further information, please contact us.
When originally installed, Broadmoor hospital sirens were located in the following boroughs:
- Little Sandhurst
If you are a resident or working in any of the Bracknell Forest Council areas above, make sure you register for Thames Valley Alerts.
* Bagshot and Camberley residents should register for Surrey Neighbourhood Alerts
Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the decommissioning process:
Why can’t the sirens be retained?
Broadmoor Hospital sirens can no longer be maintained, due to the unreliability of copper wiring communication links and an infrastructure that requires an extensive upgrade. Many have failed in recent years, and an independent survey revealed outdated technology, high maintenance costs and a need for an expensive refurbishment, which would only extended their lifespan. Following an assessment of the situation, security improvements in the new hospital and possibility of more informative, modern systems it was agreed that the significant investment required did not constitute the best use of public funds, given the current financial climate of the NHS.
If the sirens are unnecessary, why have they not been decommissioned before?
The construction of a new state of the art hospital gave us the perfect opportunity to review all our existing systems and look at how we can work more effectively. Although not part of the original redevelopment brief, since the planning process began, we’ve experienced a number of issues with the existing, outdated equipment, which encouraged us to reassess how local communities would be alerted in the highly unlikely event of a patient escape. This led us to a number of meetings with local partners to discuss how we can work together and provide a modern, responsive alert system. The additional layer of security resulting from the new layout, advances in security techniques since the sirens were installed in the 1950, huge advances in technology and improvements to working practices over the years have all contributed to the opportunity to decommission the sirens.
Why were the sirens allowed to get into such a state of disrepair?
All sirens have been monitored regularly in accordance with national guidance. However, it is not only due to their physical condition as to why they cannot be repaired, but the fact that they use WWII technology, some of which is now obsolete. Their copper wiring, which is continuously being stolen, either causing the sirens to malfunction or be taken out of use altogether whilst repairs are carried out. None of these situations are ideal, are extremely confusing for local residents and will be eradicated by the new alert system.
How have local residents been consulted?
Since decommissioning discussions began in 2014, there have been a number of engagement workshops, conversations with local council leaders and MPs as well as presentations at residents meetings. As a result of our confidence in the robustness of our existing and future security, over the years our director of security has also invited a number of visitors into both buildings for a tour and explanation of how our relational, procedural and physical elements of security all work together to make the possibility of a patient escape very unlikely.
When will the existing sirens be turned off?
Decommissioning of sirens will happen in stages. In 2014, it was agreed while we would maintain the sirens, these would not be repaired since then six have failed and have already been taken out of use. These are:
- Bracknell, Old Mill Lane
- Crowthorne, TRRL site
- Finchampstead, Longmoor Road
- Little Sandhurst, Scotland Hill
- Wokingham, Holt School
- Wokingham, St Crispin’s School
The remaining seven, unless they fall into disrepair beforehand, will be decommissioned once all our patients have transferred into the new hospital. These are located in:
- Crowthorne, Cricketfield Grove
- Crowthorne, Wellington College
- Bagshot, Council Depot
- Camberley, Town centre
- Bracknell, Chavey Down
- Sandhurst, Royal Military Academy
- Sandhurst, Comprehensive School
How will new systems be tested to ensure they are working at all times?
The new sirens will be tested by the security team on a regular basis. However, because this test will be carried out silently, residents will not hear it on a weekly basis as they do now. , but you can listen to the new siren here, so you are aware what sound will be made in the highly unlikely event of a patient escape.
What will the trust do with the money it saves?
Broadmoor Hospital is managed by West London Mental Health NHS Trust. Every year, we are also responsible for providing mental health inpatient care and community services to around 62,570 people living in the London boroughs of Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham and Hounslow. This includes a wide range of services for all sections of the population from children to the elderly. Given the current financial situation of the NHS, we are under increasing pressure to make our budgets stretch further and look at how funds might be better spent to make the most difference and bring about the best improvements. As a result, the money we save through the decommissioning of this obsolete equipment will be reinvested back into patient care.
When will the alternative system start?
Although the Broadmoor Hospital alerts will not officially begin until our patients move into the new hospital next year, we will be running the alternative system alongside the sirens from 2018. This means as a local resident, you can register your details straight away.
How do I sign up?
Visit www.thamesvalleyalert.co.uk , select register now and follow the instructions. Once you have completed the registration process, you will receive a verification email to the address given. Please note, it is essential you complete this part of the process as you will not be registered for any alerts until you have verified your application.
Who will have access to my details?
Thames Valley Police will be the only organisation to have access to your details. Your email address or any of the other details provided will not be shared with the trust or any other partnership organisations.
Will I need to renew my registration?
No, once you have registered to alerts, you will continue to receive selected alerts unless you inform Thames Valley Police that you wish to unsubscribe.
What will happen to the old sirens?
The future of the sirens remains to be decided. We are in contact with number of museums, specialist interest groups and Berkshire Archives to discuss the possibility of donating some or all of the equipment to them following decommissioning. Once these discussions have been completed, we will have a clearer idea of what, if any, equipment is available at which point the trust board will decide what will happen to the remaining sirens.