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May 8, 2020

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fire safety

Notre Dame one year on: ‘Don’t be complacent about fire safety’

One year on from the devastating Notre Dame blaze, London Fire Brigade (LFB) is warning managers of London’s closed historic venues not to be complacent about fire safety during the coronavirus outbreak.

The fire prompted the Brigade to write to venue owners across London, urging them to consider emergency response planning to protect their buildings and the precious items they contain.

It’s now a year on and many of these venues have been forced to close due to the coronavirus outbreak, but the Brigade is warning that it is more essential than ever for venues to work with it on planning for an emergency.

Advice to building managers

Notre Dame Paris BurningDuring these uncertain times it is understandable that premises owners may be concerned about the safety of their buildings. The Brigade is issuing practical advice such as switching off non essential appliances, substituting older light bulbs with safer LED bulbs and ensuring adequate control measures are in place if construction work is still being carried out on site. It is also essential to ensure that fire safety systems and equipment are maintained in good working order. Fire detection and alarm systems should be subject to regular testing and maintenance.

Having an up to date emergency response salvage plan is equally as important and this is something that venue managers can produce remotely. The plan, which will give our firefighters a strategy for their salvage operations, should identify the priority items that need to be removed from the building, along with other important information such as the size of the item, the number of people required to lift it, any security fastenings that need to be removed and also the exact location of the item within the premises.

London Fire Brigade’s Heritage Team Leader, William Knatchbull, said: “Help us to help you is my key message to building managers right now. We’re lucky to have so many beautiful historic buildings in London and we need to make sure they are treasured by generations to come.

“Currently many special buildings are closed to the public, so it’s even more imperative to get salvage plans in place. With less people on site, there may be a lack of information available to our fire crews in the first instance. Having a salvage plan available will allow us to commence our salvage operations in a formulated manner. Your emergency contact list should also be reviewed as in the current climate, some key staff members may be unable to attend in the event of an emergency.”

“Many of London’s venues have emergency response salvage plans in place and work closely with us. But there are still many whom we are yet to hear from, and while they may have plans in place, it would be prudent to work with us to ensure the plans are appropriate to be used by our firefighters in an emergency salvage situation.”

The Brigade’s Heritage Team is currently providing advice and guidance via phone and email. Site visits are currently on hold due to the Government’s #StayHomeStaySafe guidance.


Notre Dame wake-up call: The dos and don’ts of protecting heritage buildings


Case study: Law Society Fire

25 fire engines were called to the Law Society of England and Wales when it had a fire late at night at the beginning of February. While the Brigade’s crews worked to contain the fire within the modern parts of the building, and safeguard the listed parts of the building, it was fortunate that the historic library containing old legal texts books and case law dating back to the 16th century were protected.

The Law Society’s Head of Corporate Real Estate, Tom Booton said: “We were very upset this happened to this wonderful and historic building. My advice for any building manager is know your building! Understand exactly what is historically significant so once the Brigade has controlled the fire, they can rescue or preserve things that cannot be replaced. I had a call with the incident commander at 4AM, to talk him through what was and wasn’t important within the building so, he could focus his resources.

“The Brigade has a priority to preserve life, then the building, then contents.  If you’ve plans, and know your building, you’ll save lives, time and you’ll probably save more of your building and its contents. Never think it won’t happen to you.”

This article was originally published on IFSEC Global.

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