Notre Dame in Paris was badly damaged by a fire 12 months ago. Photo: Simon Rozé RFI

Warning of fire risk to heritage buildings a year on from Notre Dame blaze

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 17.04.2020
London Fire Brigade urges historic venues not to be complacent about fire safety
On the first anniversary of the fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, the London Fire Brigade has issued new fire safety advice for historic venues closed during the coronavirus lockdown. 

The brigade has also warned that, a year after the devastating blaze destroyed the roof and spire of the cathedral, many of London’s historic venues still do not have adequate emergency plans in place in the event of a fire. 

In a statement, the fire brigade urged the managers of heritage buildings not to be complacent about fire safety during the lockdown, saying it is “now more essential than ever for venues to work with us” on planning for an emergency. 

“During these uncertain times it is understandable that premises owners may be concerned about the safety of their buildings,” the brigade said in a statement. “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. 

“The threat of arson can also be reduced by removing combustible waste from around the site and ensuring all bins are kept away from the walls of the building, preferably in an area secure from public access. 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.” 

The brigade has created a dedicated web page to support heritage sites with specific fire safety advice. It is also urging historic venues to ensure they have an up-to-date emergency response salvage plan, saying this is equally as important and something that venue managers can produce remotely. 

It said: “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.”

The London Fire Brigade’s heritage team leader, William Knatchbull, encouraged venues in London to get in touch about their fire safety plans.

He 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.” 

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