Fire prevention techniques to consider

- making a heritage building safe can be tricky, but there are approaches that can offer benefits.

Fire doors and heritage doors

Fire doors can greatly reduce the spread of fire, but it’s not always possible to fit them in historic buildings. In these cases we recommend you ensure that existing heritage doors are solid and fit well in their frames. There are many products available that allow an old historic door to be upgraded to make it more resistant to heat, flame and smoke.

Hidden voids

Historic buildings, and buildings that have been altered over the years, can often have large void spaces, where a fire can go unnoticed for an extended period of time. Compartmentation surveys can be carried out to identify these voids, as well as remedial works like installing compartment walls.

Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS)

Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS) include wet sprinklers, water mist, and gas suppression systems. They can be used to compensate for limitations in historic buildings – where some items are not moveable or may be particularly rare or valuable. Consider installing an AFSS as part of your fire safety measures.

Hot works – welding, soldering, cutting

Hot works include any work using open flames, or creating sparks or heat eg welding, grinding and soldering. A permit must be prepared before carrying out hot works. As this type of work increases fire risk, it should be avoided if possible, but if not, the conditions of the permit must be followed. Key points to consider are appointing good contractors, identifying risks and taking precautions. For more information see Heritage England's advice note on hot works.

Lighting and electrics

It’s sensible to assess your current lighting system, and consider using low voltage or LED lighting throughout the building.

Carrying out thermographic testing of electrical installations can also help to identify any areas of too much heat.

Establish procedures

To minimise the risk of a fire starting, establish procedures to ensure that:

  • Measures are in place to reduce the risk of restoration and preservation processes (eg using linseed oil and cotton cloths) causing spontaneous combustion
  • Smoking and naked flames are strictly controlled or banned entirely
  • Portable appliances are regularly tested and well maintained
  • Electrical and gas services are isolated before the building is closed
  • Bins are stored away from external walls (to reduce arson risk)

Further information

General Notice 80 - Fire Safety Guidance Note: Heritage and Buildings of Special Interest

Download PDF (246kb)

Heritage advice letter

Download PDF (85kb)

5 steps to emergency response and plans

Download PDF (100kb)

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