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FIRE SAFETY & DISASTER RECOVERY


FIREPROOFING HISTORY


Adrian Attwood, Executive Director of DBR (London) Limited, explains the reasons for historic landmark fi res and how to prevent them from occurring.


General construction companies are well aware of the basic fi re safety procedures which need to be put in place during the building phase of a project, however experts in conservation and restoration will know how to best protect a historic landmark.


Arson, electrical fi res and construction mishaps are the three most common causes of fi res in older buildings, and while one might think these can easily be prevented, fi reproofi ng a historic site is anything but simple.


With the recent fi re at Nantes Cathedral, which destroyed a 17th century organ, and the shocking Notre Dame blaze which brought down its iconic spire, it has become increasingly evident famous sites worldwide need stronger and better fi re protection.


From fi re upgrades which require detailed surveys and design development, to the installation of new fi re doors and glazed fi re screens that don’t compromise the historic building fabric, the process of safeguarding a heritage building is a lengthy one.


That said, fi res are avoidable, and the risk can be signifi cantly reduced by following the correct steps to ensure a historic site is safe.


Mistakes often made Various mistakes made during construction are the most frequent reason for historic building fi res.


48 | TOMORROW’S FM


One of the most common errors is the use of an unskilled or underqualifi ed team to carry out fi re improvement works. Fire safety training is essential for the building maintainers, contractors and people who occupy the building so that not only are fi res avoided early on, but so that everyone on site can quickly and safely exit the premises should a fi re occur.


Additionally, fi re safety surveys are sometimes neglected, resulting in outdated safety features and too few, or inappropriately placed, fi re extinguishers. Building managers therefore need to ensure these surveys are conducted regularly.


Another mistake is damage caused to the historic fabric by using inappropriate materials when upgrading fi re doors. It’s essential the correct tools and knowledge are applied when improving the fi re safety features of a historic building, otherwise the fabric can be left in an even weaker state than it was originally in.


In terms of arson, enhanced security measures put into effect by the site’s owners when possible, and removing highly fl ammable items once the building is closed, will make it harder for trespassers to set the building alight.


Solutions aren’t without their challenges While there are many things to keep in mind when upgrading the fi re safety features of a heritage landmark, several challenges come with the works.


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