London Fire Brigade

How museums and heritage sites can stay fire safe while doors remain closed

Image: © London Fire Brigade/Twitter

London Fire Brigade is urging all cultural attractions to collaborate with their local fire service and develop an emergency plan to mitigate the loss of priceless heritage should the worst case scenario arise during Covid-19 closure.

With fewer team members, if any, on site during the Covid-19 shutdown, it is now “more essential than ever” that museums and heritage sites have detailed emergency response and salvage plans in place, according to London Fire Brigade.

For most sites the responsibility of making such arrangements falls on a building manager. LFB urges that checks are carried out regularly throughout this period of enforced closure to ensure fire safety systems and equipment are in good working order.

Top tips

London Fire Brigade details five ways museums and heritage sites can implement best practice in fire safety during the pandemic:

  • switch off non-essential appliances
  • substitute older light bulbs with safer LED bulbs
  • ensure adequate control measures are in place if construction work is still being carried out on site
  • ensure that fire safety systems and equipment are maintained in good working order
  • Make sure there is an up-to-date emergency response salvage plan – something that venue managers can produce remotely. It 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. Also consider how the fire brigade would obtain this information out of hours

“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,” notes London Fire Brigade’s heritage team leader, William Knatchbull.

“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.”

Keeping up-to-date plans in place is also crucial to boost preparedness – both for an instituion and the fire service. Emergency response and salvage plans, LFB states, can be produced remotely and give firefighters a clear strategy for their salvage operations.

This includes identifying priority items that need to be removed from a building first. Further information also boosts the chances of recovery, such as the size of an item, the number of people required to lift it, any security fastenings that need to be removed and its exact location within the premises.

“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,” Knatchbull adds.

“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.”

Advice and guidance from London Fire Brigade can be accessed by cultural venues across the UK, but liaising with local fire services is essential to develop effective plans. For those institutions based in London, further support can be received by getting in touch using the details below: 

Tahir Quadir
Heritage Coordinator 
London Fire Brigade
[email protected]