This month Simon Banks talks to Bob Bantock, the Operational Risk Business Partner specialising in fire solutions for the National Trust.
The National Trust is a well known name across the UK but what actually is their role?
First and foremost the National Trust is a charity, founded in 1895, with the aim of saving our nation’s heritage and open spaces. We look after a lot of things: places, spaces, objects and artefacts. Our portfolio includes historic houses, gardens, mills, coastline, forests, farmland, moorland, islands, castles, nature reserves, villages and pubs. It’s very diverse and as a result very challenging.
What are the implications of fire risk for the Trust?
If we were to have a fire, the impact could be extensive. If any items, artefacts or buildings were damaged, they would be incredibly difficult or impossible to replace. Once they are gone, they are gone forever.
How has the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 influenced the way you operate?
Many historic properties were built long before fire precautions were invented. This makes it very difficult to apply modern construction methods to them, especially if they are listed. The Fire Safety Order has provided us with a risk-based approach to managing fire safety. All of our staff, in particular our volunteers, are part of our fire safety management strategy.
What are the challenges of protecting such a varied portfolio of properties and sites?
The challenge is to apply both passive and active fire precautions in a way that is in keeping with the property. Each
building is unique and as such it is impossible to take a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Whilst there are listed building concerns to take into account, there are also conservation and curatorial issues to be considered too.
What are the principle concerns when choosing a solution?
Every building has a fire risk assessment, of which the principle requirement is life safety. This means that consideration must be given to anyone who may potentially be endangered by a fire. Protection of the property and its contents against the spread of a fire is paramount in addition to satisfying the relevant insurance requirements. Given the nature of the buildings we protect, the application of any fire precaution solutions must also be sympathetic to the building’s aesthetics.
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