There are five main areas of consideration.
1. Fire risk assessment
No matter the age or type of building, all fire safety decisions must be governed by a thorough fire risk assessment. While it is possible for a fire risk assessment to be conducted by a lay-person, in the case of listed and heritage buildings, it is always wise to work with a professional. This will help you identify all potential fire risks in the building. Enabling you to make informed decisions about the best management of the space.
2. Fire detection systems
Fire detection and smoke alarm systems are your first line of defence against fires. The difficulty can be in finding a system that will provide adequate protection without interfering with the aesthetics of the property. In many cases wireless systems are the best solution as they don’t ruin the aesthetics of a building but provide early warning in the event of a fire if installed correctly, this is why it’s important to speak to a fire safety professional to find the best detection system for your building.
3. Fire extinguishing equipment
While they’re hard to disguise (and really shouldn’t be), fire extinguishers are a must for all listed and heritage buildings. There are different types of extinguisher to combat different fires, but in most areas, a foam extinguisher will suffice. For small fires, at least. With wet chemical extinguishers for kitchens. And CO² extinguishers for electrical equipment.
The problems come with tackling larger conflagrations. Many heritage and listed building owners are reluctant to install sprinkler systems. Partly because of the aesthetic and the impact on building structure. And partly because of the potential for water damage. This is why it’s vital to speak with an expert so these decisions can be made on a case-by-case basis, tailored to your building.
4. Emergency lighting
Emergency lighting is another area that many listed building owners struggle with. Its nature means that it can be impossible to make it inconspicuous when not in use. Especially if the building hasn’t been connected to mains electricity. In most cases, emergency lighting is not obligatory. But if you think it necessary for your heritage building, there are a number of options available. Including integrated lighting and free-standing emergency lighting. Historic England also suggests the use of trained guides with torches.
5. Fixtures and fittings
While fire doors are a staple of contemporary construction, in most instances they will dramatically impact the aesthetic and historical authenticity of a heritage property. But it is possible to upgrade the fire safety existing doors, or create fire-rated copies in the original design. While steps can be taken to protect highly combustible materials from potential sources of ignition.
Managing fire safety for heritage and listed buildings is a complex process. In most cases, it will require the development of unique solutions and workarounds. Steps that will enable the historical integrity of the building to remain intact. Without lessening the overall protection of the provided solution. And the best people to do that are dedicated fire safety professionals.