Keeping heritage buildings safe
10th November 2016
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Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service remind owners or managers of heritage buildings of the importance of carrying out and regularly reviewing their Fire Risk Assessment .  

Safeguarding heritage buildings from the ravages of fire is vital to conserve the historical record for future generations as well as ensuring the treasures within will be preserved and enjoyed for many years to come.

If you are the owner or manager of a heritage building, there are some fairly simple actions you can take which will protect historic buildings and artefacts from the damage that can be caused during a fire. These actions will lower the risk of your building being involved in a fire, and in the event of a fire or other emergency, limit the damage to your building and its contents.

Paul Bray, Community Safety Protection Manager said: “Older buildings have unique features such as hidden voids and cavities where fire can easily travel undetected. We therefore advise that a full set of records, drawings, photos and other information is stored and is made available to us for use in any heritage building in the event of a fire. This would contribute to forming the basis of how the service will deal with each building in the event of a fire.”

Make an assessment of the risk of a fire occurring in your building

There is no standardised format for recording or presenting the findings of a Fire Risk Assessment but in every case the goal should be to produce clear and comprehensive documentation that is regularly reviewed. When you have assessed the risks consider what you can do to reduce or eliminate those risks. 

Risks to consider:

  • The sources of ignition and fuel
  • The potential for fire to spread through the building
  • The adequacy of the fire alarm system
  • The means of access and means of escape
  • If the building is in a rural area, the water supplies and access for fire appliances
  • The valuable contents you would like to prioritise

Protective measures are often controversial in heritage buildings, because they can be seen as disruptive to the original fabric of the building, and the physical installation of the systems can sometimes be difficult. It is possible, however, to take suitable protective measures that are sympathetic to the historic fabric of the building, but which can also be designed for individual premises. 

A business continuity plan should be integrated within the fire safety management plan so that in the event of fire, restoration work can proceed as quickly as possible. Being prepared for an emergency will significantly improve recovery rate. 

Is the building provided with an adequate warning system in the event of fire? If you need any help or advice call us on 0800 0502 999 between 9.00 am - 5.00pm or email

About the Author

Colin S

Member since: 27th February 2014

Hi, I am Colin Slade, I am the New Business Manager here at thebestof Exeter and I handle lots of the PR and News stories for our clients

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