2019 Yearbook

38 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 1 9 and establishing and maintaining a good working relationship should be embraced as a key priority. Most fire services have appointed contacts for heritage who are able to offer informed and well-directed input. The effectiveness of the fire service’s intervention can also be improved by ensuring that firefighters have a good level of familiarity with the building. So, in addition to consultation with fire protection officers about a range of issues (most likely related to life safety), it is essential that firefighters are invited to the building for orientation visits and to take part in emergency drills or exercises. Both will also enable fire commanders to make informed judgments about risk levels to fire crew carrying out firefighting and salvage operations. Orientation visits and emergency drills are discrete events, the former involving firefighters learning about the building and its layout and contents, perhaps walking through the building with a manager, and the latter being a simulation of the response to an actual fire event (an exercise). The responsibility for establishing and maintaining such a relationship necessarily sits with the historic building’s owners or managers because the breadth of the fire service’s remit combined with limitations in resources means it is unlikely that the service will always be proactive towards heritage. The onus on establishing this relationship may change when there are life safety issues, but in this case the main focus of the fire service is life risk rather than heritage concerns. Crucial to effective firefighting is the adequate provision of firefighting water; in a number of high-profile fires, problems with the water supply have had a negative impact. Prior-knowledge should ensure that water supply has been adequately accounted for, although in some cases the only solution has been to provide a store of water where none was available (digging a pond or installing a tank for example). Access for fire appliances should also be taken into account – fire tenders are both wide and high and so can’t always take the most direct approach route. They are also heavy and require solid ground to stand on. Fighting a fire is made more challenging where there is no external access to parts of some historic buildings because of high walls, ornate gardens and so on, and careful pre-planning allows for the exploration of alternative tactics. In cases where important artefacts are at stake (the contents, or collection), thought needs to be given to removing them if there is a fire, a process often referred to as salvage. Again, this will involve close liaison with the fire service because salvage operations will be carried out by fire service personnel, except in cases when the risk is judged by the incident commander to be low enough to allow persons other than firefighters to enter a building (notwithstanding building staff being well-trained in salvage). At the simplest level the fire service needs to know which items are a priority for removal, where exactly in the building they are located and how they require handling. Prior-knowledge by the fire service of building layout, identification of priority items and practice in removing these from the building may prove very important when time is limited. The key message for owners and operators of historic buildings, and those advising them, is that the need to plan for the possibility of a fire should be accepted as an urgent priority. It is also far better to have some kind of plan in place today, even though it may not be perfect, than the most intricate and brilliant plan tomorrow when it may already be too late. Further Information Excellent advice and useful templates are available from Historic England’s website (see www.historicengland.org. uk/advice/technical-advice/emergency- and-fire/response-plans/). A longer article by the same author, entitled Emergency planning for fire in historic buildings, has been published online in the journal The Historic Environment: Policy and Practice (Taylor and Francis; DOI: 10.1080/17567505.2018.1531645; the hard copy version will be in Vol 10.1 in March). Simon Kincaid is a senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University teaching undergraduate and postgraduate architecture and building surveying. His main areas of expertise include fire safety and building conservation. He has published a number of journal articles about fire in historic buildings. An exercise being conducted with West Midlands Fire Service during a salvage and disaster recovery course which Historic England runs four times a year with input from English Heritage and the National Trust