Assessing Fire Risk in Historic Buildings and Structures

Assessing fire risk in historic buildings and structures in London is a complex and challenging task. Many of these buildings have unique architectural features and materials that can make them more susceptible to fire. Additionally, the age and condition of these structures can pose additional risks.


Compartmentalisation is an essential fire safety measure for historic buildings used as tours and attractions. Visitors often move between rooms with doors left open, creating a potential pathway for fire to spread. One effective solution is to install fire doors, which can contain the fire and prevent it from spreading. In cases where structural or aesthetic regulations prevent installation, automatic closing doors can help reduce the risk of doors being left open due to human error.

Hidden cavities and voids within historic buildings can also pose a significant fire risk, allowing fire to spread undetected through spaces such as the space behind lathes, plaster, walls, false ceilings, or walls where modernization has concealed plumbing or electricity without proper fire stopping measures. It is important to identify and address these hidden cavities as part of a comprehensive fire safety plan to mitigate the risk of fire.


Historic properties often house precious artefacts, including artwork, clothing, and furniture, among others. These items are highly flammable and can greatly contribute to the spread of fire if one breaks out. When combined with open doors, a fire can quickly move throughout the building, reducing the time available for escape.

Wiring and Electrical Systems

Wiring and electrical systems in historic buildings in London can pose a significant fire risk. While some properties may have modern wiring installed, there may also be older systems present that need to be inspected and maintained regularly.

In larger buildings, there may be multiple fuse boxes that require attention to ensure they do not pose a risk of fire. Portable appliances also need to be PAT tested appropriately to prevent electrical fires.

It is important to have a thorough understanding of the electrical systems in historic buildings and take appropriate measures to mitigate potential fire hazards.

Fire safety signage

Historical buildings in London may lack proper fire safety signage, which can make it difficult for occupants and visitors to navigate the building in the event of a fire. This includes signage indicating emergency exits, fire extinguishers, and other safety equipment, as well as clear instructions on what to do in case of a fire. It is important for building owners and managers to make sure that proper signage is in place and clearly visible, as it can greatly improve the chances of a safe evacuation in an emergency.

Fire Risk Assessment

To conduct a thorough Fire Risk Assessment for historic buildings and structures in London, it is important to carry out a comprehensive inspection and analysis. This includes identifying potential fire hazards, such as faulty electrical wiring or heating systems, as well as evaluating the condition of the building’s structure and materials.

In some cases, it may be necessary to install additional fire safety equipment or systems, such as sprinklers or fire alarms, to mitigate the risk of fire. It is also important to have a comprehensive emergency response plan in place, including evacuation procedures and protocols for contacting emergency services.

Who is Responsible for the Safety of an Historic Building? Why is it Important?

In the case of buildings with historical significance or those that are listed, the responsibility for ensuring fire safety lies with the building owner or occupier. Fire safety in these properties involves two aspects: protecting the occupants and providing sufficient means of escape, as well as safeguarding the building and its contents. However, the fire safety laws in place for these types of properties only concern the protection of life and not the structure or its contents. While preserving human life is of utmost importance, recent incidents have demonstrated that fires can completely destroy heritage properties.

Fire Safety Training

Fire Safety Training is Essential It is evident that fire safety measures that are generally simple in modern buildings can be complicated or impossible to install in historic properties. Therefore, it is critical that personnel are thoroughly trained in fire safety protocols, particularly evacuation plans. In the event of a fire, having knowledgeable individuals on site who are familiar with the building’s layout will be valuable in ensuring that people exit safely and quickly. Protecting a historic property from fire requires thorough planning to prepare for various risks. The builders of these significant structures did not have access to the equipment, materials, and knowledge that we possess today, making these properties uniquely vulnerable to fire.

Fire Strategies

For more complex heritage buildings, it is important to develop a Strategy that is bespoke to the building. A Fire Strategyis a combination of fire safety measures that have been designed to meet specific functional objectives and comply with relevant design codes or fire safety engineering analysis. One of the aims of a Strategy for a heritage building should be to consider how to protect the contents and the premises in the event of a fire.

Documented strategies are a key point of reference when making any alterations to a building, informing fire risk assessments, and supporting the fire service in its role as an auditor of compliance with the Fire Safety Order. These strategies should be kept as simple as possible, so they can be easily understood by those who need to manage and maintain the building.

 It is critical to regularly review and update the strategy document, taking into account factors such as building works, changes in risk, and relevant legislation. This review of both the fire strategy and fire risk assessment is particularly crucial during any construction phase of a project when the risk of fire could be significant.

Following best practices, it is essential to work with experienced professionals who specialize in fire risk assessment for historic buildings. This will ensure that appropriate measures are taken to protect these important structures. Additionally, it is important to regularly review and update fire safety plans and procedures to ensure that they remain effective and relevant over time.

London City Fire

Our fire safety assessors are focused on protecting life and property by identifying vulnerabilities in your structure, emergency planning, and staff training routines. Whatever the shortcomings, we will provide you with a range of solutions.

All of our in-house assessors are accredited via the Institute of Fire Engineers and/or The Institute of Fire Safety Managers. Furthermore, we’re qualified to undertake fire risk assessments under the Fire Safety Act 2021 and are fully trained in PAS79.(Publicly Available Specification for Fire Risk Assessment and its Methodology).

We believe safety is always a top priority.

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