Fire Safety Challenges in Ageing Infrastructure

26 June 2024

England has a rich architectural history, with many old properties still in regular use today. Their high-quality materials and construction methods have stood the test of time, but their fire safety measures are often outdated. So, in this blog, we address the challenges that ageing properties face and how a strong fire safety system means these buildings can be appreciated for years to come.

Outdated Fire Technology

Electronic systems for the detection and suppression of fire have developed massively in the past few decades. But, a lot of older buildings don’t have the infrastructure required to install them. Some, built before the widespread use of electricity, don’t have the wiring to power them. So, before a building is used, you must conduct a full audit of the wiring and any existing systems in place. Electrical work is costly and time-consuming, so it is important to have a full understanding of the job ahead.

Electrical Hazards

Another issue with electrical systems in ageing infrastructure is that they can be hazardous. Worn-out wiring, overloaded circuits, and insufficient grounding can all contribute to electrical fires, which are among the leading causes of building fires. As previously mentioned, a thorough audit should be done prior to any work. It is also important to engage a licensed electrician to make any upgrades or fixes. 

Structural Issues

Despite seeming in good condition to the naked eye, older buildings often deteriorate over time, causing hidden structural issues. These could include weakened walls, floors, and roofs. Compromised integrity can both make a building more susceptible to fire and hinder evacuation efforts. So, it is important to get a thorough survey of your property to get a full picture of its state. Once the building is up to standard and in use, keep a close eye on any evacuation routes.

Inadequate Fire Proofing

In recent decades, our understanding of the way fire interacts with materials has changed. In less than a generation, developments in cladding and the dangers of asbestos have both come to light. So, to ensure your property meets high standards of fire safety, you may need to retrofit any outdated materials.

Limited Accessibility

Unfortunately, the conversation around accessibility has only taken real effect in recent decades. So, period properties often lack routes for those with disabilities. In a fire, this can have devastating effects, but it will also hinder the day to day life of many building users. To improve accessibility, you may consider adding stairlifts, installing ramps, upgrading to automatic doors and improving signage. 

Balancing Preservation & Safety

Many ageing buildings are protected due to their historical significance, which can complicate efforts to implement modern fire safety measures. Balancing preservation with safety is a delicate task that requires careful planning and coordination. Work with preservationists, architects, and fire safety experts to develop solutions that respect the building’s historical value while enhancing safety. This might include discreetly integrating fire detection systems, using materials that mimic historical aesthetics, and developing comprehensive emergency response plans.

The longevity of historic and ageing buildings hinges on making them safe for all – especially in the event of a fire. Without these measures, both the building and its users can face terrible consequences. But, with diligence and a proactive approach, you can safeguard your property and the lives of its users without compromising its historical charm.

Total Fire Group’s comprehensive fire safety partnerships can help you maintain a higher standard of safety – contact us to learn more.

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