Second Fire almost Destroys the Glasgow School of Art

Fire blazes through the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building on 16 June 2018. ‘The heart of Glasgow’s Mackintosh legacy has been ripped away.’ Photograph: Scottish Fire Service Handout/EPA (

A ferocious fire has devastated – probably destroying the 50 percent irreparably – the School of Art, a masterpiece by the Scottish architect Rennie Mackintosh. The building was famous because, together with works by Victor Horta, Henry Van de Velde, Adolf Loos and the American Louis Sullivan, represented a peak of that style that marked the passage from nineteenth-century eclecticism to modernity, functionalism and even twentieth century rationalism.

The Mackintosh Building as been extensively damaged on 15 June 2018 by a fire that started in the evening (the first fire call has been received at 11:19 pm). The cause of the fire is not known. It could have been caused by a small fire that burned for some time and then accelerated or it could have grown rapidly. When the Fire Service arrived soon after the alarm was raised, there was a fully developed fire. Since the upper floors and roof seems to  have suffered more damages, the fire could have started on the upper levels and burned down through the building.

Although interiors were destroyed and the exterior extensively damaged but much of the stone exterior had survived.

The building had been previously damaged by fire on 23 May 2014, caused by a canister of expanding foam used in close proximity to a hot projector, causing flammable gases to ignite. The fire service estimated that 90 per cent of the building and 70 per cent of its contents had been saved. According a report from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service the design of the building contributed greatly to the spread of the fire. In particular allowed flames, hot gases, and smoke to travel:

  • the number of timber lined walls and voids;
  • the original ventilation ducts running both vertically and horizontally throughout the building;
  • a vertical service void which ran the entire height of the building;

At that time time, moreover, the fire suppression system had not been completed.

The 2018 fire occurred when a £32million renovation work was undergoing  (expected to be completed in February 2019). In this case, fire damages seems to be heavier, and their severity can be attributed to the reconstruction works undergoing, which made the building much more vulnerable to fire (new sprinkler system had not yet been fitted as part of the restoration following an earlier blaze). Although interiors were destroyed and the exterior damaged, much of the stone exterior had survived.  If the building will be saved, the cost will be at least  £100m .

3D Scanning and Emergency Management of Cultural Heritage Buildings after Earthquakes: the St. Francis of Assisi Integrated System

3D scanning of the three levels of the St. Francis of Assisi Basilica (Assisi, Italy) -courtesy of Prof.  Fabio Garzia – La Sapienza University, Rome (Italy).

One of the main problems of emergency management in case of damage reported by historic buildings after an earthquake is represented by immediate damage assessment. In fact, nowadays it is not possible to use techniques other than the personal evaluation carried out by first responders.

The purpose of the paper, presented by Dr. Eng. Stefano Marsella and Prof. Fabio Garzia at the 6th International Conference on Heritage and Sustainable Development – Granada June, 2018  is to illustrate a proper 3D imaging technique to improve damage restorations, showing, as a case study, what has been done and what is going on in the Papal Basilica and the Sacred Convent of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy.

One of the main problems of emergency management in case of damage reported by historic buildings after an earthquake is represented by immediate damage assessment. Nowadays, it is not in fact possible to use techniques other than the personal evaluation carried out by rescuers. However, since in many cases it is necessary to estimate the deformations and displacements of structures based on objective values within a brief time, the Department of Fire Corps of the Italian Ministry of the Interior and the research sector have started to study alternative solutions, using innovation technologies. One of the methods under study is represented by the use of 3D images of the buildings acquired before the events and their comparison with similar images acquired after the events.

Download the paper: Marsella_Garzia1

Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections: an ICCROM-UNESCO handbook



Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections (ICCROM-UNESCO) – Handbook cover.

Protecting Cultural Heritage is  mainly aimed at avoiding that any kind of  hazard could pose an excessive  risk to the objects that must be preserved. There are conditions, nonetheless, that oblige to evacuate the artefacts, since the preventive measures cannot be anymore effective.  So, in specific situations, museums and their staff may  go through challenging times due both to natural disasters and climate change.

In the case of museums, when they  are threatened for their role in protecting and valorizing precious witnesses of the past and human creativity, their intrinsic value for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding  must be protected and supported.

UNESCO and ICCROM have published in English and in Arabic an handbook about the protection of Cultural Heritage objects during conflicts. Such activity  is challenging and can be life threatening.

The handbook provides step-by-step guidance for evacuating cultural collections under extreme conditions. It is aimed at assisting people and  institutions,which try to prevent the destruction and looting of cultural objects during a crisis situation. It can be used also to train others and to improve emergency preparedness at cultural sites. According the document, the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation (EHRF), a Cairo based non-governmental organisation, has performed the field-testing of the workflow.

Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections (ICCROM-UNESCO) – Document, Pack and move infographic.

The handbook deals the evacuation of cultural heritage objects, how to do it, which workflow adopt, how to assess the threat and other important aspects of  preparedness and management of emergency evacuations. Obviously, the handbook cannot give instructions on the prioritisation in removing objects, since such activity is strongly related to a complex  assessment depending of many different considerations but it has the merit of drawing attention to this passage of emergency procedures and providing some basic information.

The document can be downloaded from the ICCROM website or here:

ICCROM-UNESCO Emergency Evacuation of Cultural Heritage of Handbook

Vegetation Fire and Cultural Heritage buildings: the Paul Getty Museum case study

Flames endangers the I 405 by the Getty Center on Dec. 5th (Credits: Melissa Castro)

On December 5th, 2017, a large brush fire in California has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and destroyed hundreds of homes and other buildings. According the media no injuries or structural damage have been reported, although the museum has been threatened and closed to the public on Wednesday 5th.

An important aspect of the fire that obliged Authorities to close the freeway through the Sepulveda Pass, is related to fire safety of art collections and museums in general in case of vegetation or forest fire. The Getty Center has been closed for one day because of wildfires burning across the 405 Freeway. According media  “officials say the flames pose no immediate danger to the museum’s art”.

At 07:11 – 6 dic 2017 the Center has released the following tweet: The Getty Center is closed to the public today. The fire is northeast of the Getty Center and east of the San Diego Freeway. Air filtration systems are protecting the galleries from smoke. We continue to monitor the situation and will issue updates as we have them.

The Getty’s vice president of communications,  has explained that  “the safest place for the art is right here at the Getty”.

The Getty Center and the vegetation around the compound (Credits: Google Maps)

The key points fo the specific fire safety strategy adopted by the museum against vegetation fire can be summarised as follows:

  • the thickness of the walls and doors, designed to compartmentalize any flames;
  • smoke detection and sprinklers;
  • sophisticated air filtration system and pressurization systems (with the possibility of reverse flow);
  • water reservoir to supply suppression systems;
  •  on-site helipad to fill helicopters with water;
  •  large-diameter loop to feed hydrants of the property;
  • the zone around the building is kept green with fire-resistant plants;
  • the area surrounding the campus is  kept clear of grasses.;
  • a canopy of oak trees has been planted in order to suppress the growth of vegetation that could feed a vegetation fire.

Smoke, hot air and toxic gases produced by a forest or vegetation fire con be  led by winds inside containing vulnerable historic or cultural artefacts and  damage them inside a building, the same way smoke and combustion products can do it when produced by an internal fire. Thus, the fire has highlighted the frequently forgotten need of assessing also the risk of external fire in assessing museum and Cultural Heritage safety.

The event shows how safety of museums in specific cases needs the assessment of people evacuation, of  internal fire spread and vegetation fire propagation.




The oldest fire detection system ever? The case of St. Paul outside the Wall Basilica in Rome

St. Paul outside the Walls fire – Rome July 15th, 1823
(from: Archivio di San Paolo)

In the night of July 15th, 1823, a fire destroyed a large part of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls in Rome. In the following years reconstruction works, particularly interesting  for the historical evolution of fire safety measures, began. In particular, the fire protection system adopted seems to be the first case of automatic detection and alarm system ever designed in the world.

The conference “Salvare la Storia” (Saving Hystory), held in Rome on 21st November 2017 and organised by the Italian Fire Services (Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco), has disclosed this aspect, which is related to one of the worst fires that have damaged a building of historical, cultural and religous significance in Italy in the last two centuries.

The events that led to the fire have been studied widely. For a number of reasons, it isn’t known with certainty the cause of the fire, but the strong interest of the Popes (Leo XII, Gregory XVI and finally Pius IX)  in restoring the Papal Basilica and providing it with the most efficient protection against the fires is well documented in the State Archive of Rome (Archivio di Stato di Roma) and the Gregorian Archives (Archivio Storico – Pontificia Università Gregoriana). The period when the fire occurred was restless. Attacks on major buildings had already occurred and many feared that the Basilica fire was not accidental but for a deliberate act.

After a  risk assessment that considered the particular position of the monument (an abandoned countryside area some kilometers away from the city) and the high risk of arson due to political reasons, Pope Gregory XVI (meanwhile, Leo XII had died) asked to a particularly skilled engineer and architect, Luigi Poletti, to provide the new roof and the entire monument with a fire protection system. Luigi Poletti, asked the scientist Fr. Angelo Secchi (an Italian astronomer, director of the Observatory at the Pontifical Gregorian University) to study a new system.  Fr. Secchi, with the contribution of the Luswerghs (a family of engineers that in Rome had been crafting scientific apparatus for decades) planned the whole protection system of the Basilica with a comprehensive view of the problem.

Water reservoirs, pumps, lightning protection, thermometers, an apparecchio termoelettrico avvisatore d’incendi (thermoelectric fire warning device) feeded by two electric batteries “Leclanchè system” were designed and realised, together with a telegraphic system that connected the Basilica with a kind of control room in the center of Rome (the area of the Basilica was some kilometers away from the periphery of the city, in an abandoned area subject during summer to malaria).

St. Paul outside the Walls Basilica – hypothetical position of the 1867 project of the fire safety system pumps and reservoirs

No parts of the original fire protection system survived the beginning of the XIX century, since the new administration (Rome in the meantime had been conquered by the Savoyards troops) considered the system useless. Details of the features of the system should be published in the first months of 2018, when the conference proceedings will be published by the Italian National Fire Service.

Program of the conference, organised by the Director of the National Fire Academy Dr. Eng. Stefano Marsella for the EU funded STORM project

The presentation (in Italian) of the historical context of the reconstruction of Basilica, by Dr. Monica Calzolari (Archivio di Stato di Roma), can be downloaded here:

In the proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on the History of Engineering, held in Naples ( on 23rd and 24th April, 2018, a paper concerning the fire protection of the Basilica has been published. The poster of the paper can be downloaded here: AISING Conference poster.


Securing historic towns damaged by earthquakes: managing the complexity

When an historic center, a town or a district, is hit by an earthquake, managing the securing operations may reach an high degree of complexity. Different organisations, large number of engineers, cultural heritage experts and workers need to operate at the same time as fast as they can. The supply chain, moreover, can be slowed down by the interference with other civil protection processes which are active in the same area and in the same time. Thus, the recovery of a large number of historical buildings can pose problems in terms of organisation and management of complex relations between the different entities involved in town administration, Cultural Heritage conservation and rescue organisations.

A presentation shown by  Dr. Eng.  Davide Pozzi (CNVVF) for the STORM project in the Venaria Reale meeting of May 26th 2017 in Turin (Italy) highlights how complex is the organisation of the rescue activities when cultural heritage artefacts are involved.

Italy, due to its large amount of historical buildings and artefacts, has a structured central authority committed with the conservation of any historical, monumental or cultural asset, tangible or intangible (the Ministry for Culturale Heritage – MiBACT). When it comes to deal with an earthquake, the main authorities involved in emergency management are shown in the following image.

Amatrice (Italy) Earthquake 2016 damages to the historical area of the town (credits: CNVVF/STORM Project)

The image below shows that a cooperation between local (town and regional administrations) and central authorities (MiBACT and the Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco – CNVVF that is the National Fire and Rescue Service) is needed in order to let the specialised resources sent by national administrations work in the scenario according the local needs.

Authorities involved in managing cultural heritage damaged by earthquakes in Italy

The legal basis of the rescue operations can be summarised in the following rules:

  • Law 24 February 1992, n. 225
  • Legislative decree 139/06
  • MiBACT directive 23.4.2015
  • Circular letter CNVVF – DC.EMERG. 07/2015

The operational procedures are based on the following documents:

  • TRIAGE.dEm.
  • Schede STOP (“Shoring Templates and Operating Procedures for the support of buildings damaged by earthquakes”)
  • Information Technologies Applications: CAP-ITEM – SO115 – Stat-RI – TAS, CDV

The coexistence of different regulations and specific operational procedures implies a complex architecture of tasks and duties that can be explained in the following image.

Architecture of functions to be set up after and earthquake

The phases of the rescue operations 

First Phase

The CNVVF deploys after the earthquake the RECS (Recognition Expert for Strategic characterization) units. One of their main tasks is  photographing the state of the places (for example, with UAVs) in order to share with the local and central control rooms a fast-preliminary survey. RECS locate:

  •  “focus points”, (characterizing the structural weaknesses and geomapping the territory)
  • the critical issues that may affect the use of streets and spaces
  • the prioritization indicators in order to programme rescue operations
  • the critical situations to be monitored

The RECS unit operates independently. At the end of this phase, each RECS unit proposes the eventual activation of the next phase (NIS)

Second Phase

The unit called NIS (Special Interventions Unit) is  established within the control of the Commander of epicentre scenarios and is organized by areas of competence (cultural heritage , critical infrastructure, industrial activities and strategic sites, particularly complex scenarios, etc.). The task of such units are:

  • analysing and plans the implementation of special technical countermeasures processes (temporary works, safety measures, etc.) and verifying the feasibility when such plans are proposed by third parties;
  • ensuring, in case of natural disasters, timeliness and effectiveness of interventions for the protection of cultural heritage;
  • ensuring synergy and coordination, according to specific procedures, between the joints of the Ministry, the National Service of Civil Protection and other bodies responsible for emergency management.

    Sequence of the activities after the earthquake

    The National Coordination Unit of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage (UCCN-MiBAC) is then established to work with the General Secretariat for:

    • ensuring coordination between the central and territorial structures of the Ministry with external national institutions, providing for the necessary activations;
    • ensuring the application of operational procedures approved for the intervention teams, in the operations involving the cultural heritage (audit, profiling, put in security, recovery and removal, storage, removal and relocation, restoration, etc.);
    • monitoring the safety operations and consolidation activities;
    • identifying the IT for the various activities;
    • identifying how sharing of geo-referred information with the institutions involved.

    In particular, the IT architecture deserves to be thorough. In fact, it must be modeled on the complexity of operations. This complexity  depends on the territorial extension of the event and on the need to co-ordinate the urgent operations to be carried out within the first responders (in Italy, the CNVVF) and between rescuers and bodies responsible for the protection of cultural heritage. The following image shows the  explains the operation and information flow.

    The IT – operational architecture during large scale events (credits:


    Large scale events involving Cultural Heritage needs Information Technology resources and trained First Responders. Moreover, the coordination of several multi-disciplinary teams and the data exchange between the Authorities involved in the protection of Cultural Heritage and in Rescue has to be addressed with care before the events, since the operational needs during the emergencies could pose overwhelming problems.

Preparedness and First Aid to Cultural Heritage in the STORM Summer School

Istituto Superiore Antincendi (National Fire Academy of the Italian Firefighters)

Protecting Cultural Heritage form disasters needs different actions, one of the more important of which is to make aware stakeholders about what to do, during emergencies, to limit damages. This consideration has been made by the the EU research project STORM, financed under the Horizon 2020 program, that, from 11th to 13th September 2017  has organized in Rome (Italy) its first course on Management in Emergency of Cultural Heritage. The course “STORM Summer School 2017” has been based on the main topic of the project: how to protect (from preparedness to recovery) cultural heritage against damages due to climate change. So, together with the lessons and the field demonstrations concerning first aid to heritage and historical building, climate change and its effects on the environment have been briefly described.

The Course, a preparatory activity to organise the 2018 STORM Summer School, has been held in Rome, in the National Fire Academy (Istituto Superiore Antincendi) with a 2 and an half days program and final examination. The aim of the course, is giving to managers and to anyone is committed in managing Cultural Heritage buildings some basic information on the main risks due to climate change that can pose a threat to Cultural Heritage buildings and artefacts. The program is based on the underlying consideration that the  training and cultural basis in Europe of people charged of managing such assets is extremely different in the member states.

The speakers and the topics of the course have been:

  • Dr. Ivonne Anders, University of Stuttgart (GE), Climate change observed and predicted in Europe 
  • Dr. Alcides Fuschini Bizarro, Município de Grândola (PT), Water and environment agents  damages: protecting procedures  in emergency 
  • Prof. Joerg Birkmann, University of Stuttgart (GE), Climate change and new threats to cultural heritage
  • Dr. Eng. Silvia Boi, Engineering Ingegneria Informatica (IT),  The STORM project and protection of cultural heritage: state of the art and goals
  • Dr. Francesca Boldrighini, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Colosseo, il Museo Nazionale Romano e l’Area Archeologica di Roma (IT), Gathering and sharing data in emergency between rescue services and cultural heritage protection bodies
  • Dr. Maria Concetta Capua, Nova Conservacao (PT), STORM suggested forms and their use on field
  • Prof. Patrikakis Charalampos, Technological Educational Institute of Piraeus (GR), Description of sensors used in STORM
  • Dr. Eng. Armando de Rosa, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Quick assessment of damaged structures
  • Dr. Paolo Dolci, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Steading of a earthquake-damaged masonry arch
  • Dr. Arch. Maria Teresa Jaquinta (ICCROM), Definition, classification and protection of cultural heritage rules
  • Dr. Eng. Andrea Marino, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Earthquake damages: shoring procedures in emergency scenarios
  • Dr. Eng. Stefano Marsella, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Protection of cultural buildings and sites from vegetation fires
  • Dr. Eng. Marcello Marzoli, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Gathering and sharing data in emergency between rescue services and cultural heritage protection bodies
  • Dr. Eng. Luca Nassi, Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco (IT), Protection of cultural heritage and artifacts from structural fires
  • Dr. Filipa Mascarenhas Neto, Direção-Geral do Património Cultural (PT)
  • Mr. Fabio Perossini, KPeople (UK), Roles and Responsibility in cultural heritage resilience, How to estimate costs to be faced. Voluntarism involvement. A strategy for the future
  • Dr. Mohammed Ravankhah, University of Stuttgart (GE), Climate change observed and predicted in Europe
  • Dr. Vanni Resta, KPeople (UK),
  • Dr. Maria Joao Reves, Nova Conservacao (PT),  Integration of short and long term applications to enable improved decision making and faster reaction
  • Prof. Ulderico Santamaria, Università della Tuscia (IT), Protection measures on cultural heritage against environmental agents
  • Prof. Eren Uckan, Bogazici University and Kandilli Observatory (TR), Principles to face earthquake risks for cultural heritage
Summer School Field demonstration of salvage of flooded books

Five “Field Exercise” have been kept:

  • Before the disaster: Data collection –  How to collect data about the Cultural Heritage in the preparedness phase;
  • First Aid to books in case of flood – Instructions to first responders to save books and papers involved in floods;
  • Steading of a earthquake-damaged masonry arch – Demonstration about the shoring of a masonry structure in the aftermath of the event (earthquake) applying operating procedure of the Italian National Firefighter Corps;
  • First aid to damaged fresco – Procedures to save frescoes damaged applying the  technique of detaching from the walls;
  • Quick assessment of damaged structures – Demonstration of the procedures currently developed by the Italian National Firefighters (CNVVF) within the STORM project in the Terme di Diocleziano pilot site aimed at helping the quick assessment of the structural damage of a building using Geo-Radar and Laser Scanner equipment.
STORM 2017 Summer School Program

Two demonstrations have been dealing with scenarios concerning the assessment and the limitation of damages to Cultural Heritage after earthquakes or floods. The Italian Firefighters (CNVVF) showed, in particular, the techniques used in the immediate aftermath of an earthquakes to shore damaged historical buildings have been demonstrated with the construction, in few hours, of a shoring wooden structure aimed ad reinforcing a damaged masonry arch.

In the second scenario the quick assessment of a damaged building (even in this case, damage is not related necessarily to an earthquake) has been carried out using laser scanner and geo-radar technologies. This particular activity is an innovation action due to the European project and is currently developed in the pilot site of the Terme di Diocleziano compound, in Rome. The concept of the action is verify the feasibility of a procedure based on the comparison between a scanning of a damaged structure carried out by the firefighters after the damaged with a 3D image previously acquired by the owner/manager of the structure and available to firefighters even in emergency. Such possibility would allow to assess with extreme precision the displacement of the structure and decide with more confidence what kind of measures have to be taken. Other demonstrations have dealt with limitation of damages activities to frescoes and with salvage of flooded books.

The 2017 edition of the Summer School aimed at giving the basic information about the first year results of the STORM project. The second edition of the course will be organized during 2018. The course has been an experimental edition, limited to partners of the project and invited stakeholders. The purpose of the course has been the verification of the user requirements, in order to organize the 2018 edition within a framework closer to the stakeholders.

Summer school program

Flyer Summer School


Forest Fire Risks to Cultural Heritage

When it comes to assess the risks of fire to Cultural Resources buildings or artefacts, normally they are related to buildings.  In a consistently smaller number of cases, the scenario is related to a forest or a vegetation fire.

The technical literature concerned with the protection of cultural heritage from the risks of fire rarely takes this issue into account. One of the few documents that fully addresses this aspect is the Wildland Fire report in Ecosystems Effects of Fire on Cultural Resources and Archeology, published by the United States Department of Agricolture.
In order to deal with the risk induced by vegetation fires, the report divides the types of fire into three main categories:

  • Risk to artefacts caused by vegetation fires;
  • Risk to intangible Cultural Resources caused by vegetation fires;
  • Risk to Cultural Resources caused by fire suppression and rehabilitation activities.

A quick overview of the overall problem (broadly based on the USDA document) of the risks to Cultural Heritage associated with vegetation fires has been the object of a presentation during the 2017 STORM Summer School, held on September 11-13 in Rome.
STORM is an EU Horizon 2020 project financed to enhance the capacity of stakeholders to protect cultural heritage against climate change effects and the course – Emergency Management of Cultural Heritage – has dealt with several issues of protection of Cultural Heritage.

Water Mist and Cultural Heritage: can Simulation Tools help assessing its effect?

The_Blue_Boat_1892_Winslow_Homer – Museum of Fine Arts – Boston 

Watercolor images are among the most vulnerable artefacts to the effects of firefighting water  systems.

According to the NFPA 750 definition, watermist is a water spray for which the 99% of the total volume of liquid (Dv0.99) is distributed in droplets with a diameter smaller than 1000 microns at the minimum design operating pressure of the water mist nozzle.A slightly different definition has been introduced by the CEN/TS 14972,  as a water spray for which the 90% of the total volume of liquid (Dv0.90) is distributed in droplets with a diameter smaller than 1000 microns at the minimum design operating pressure of the water mist nozzle.

Given the importance of water mist systems in firefighting protection, when such resource is considered as a possible choice in the fire protection strategies, the first step to be taken before adopting them is assessing their effects on the objects to be protected. Among them, there’s a lot of objects that do not like water, even if distributed in very small droplets.

Thus, the capacity of simulating a fire and fire extinction process is critical to choosing with the required data. The study “Can we predict fire extinction by water mist with FDS?”, By A. Jenft, P. Boulet, A. Collin, G. Pianet, A. Breton and A. Muller has been recently published on Mechanics & Industry (14 , 389-393 (2013)) and deals with the general problem of simulating the suppression of a fire with water mist systems. Even if it is not focused on cultural heritage protection, the paper gives some important information about the actual possibilities of the existing simulation capacities.

The abstract of the paper starts from the consideration that, among the primary phenomena observed when studying fire suppression, there are fuel surface cooling, fire plume cooling and inerting effects. In particular, the final result of water evaporation generates significant vapor concentration, thus leading to an important heat sink as well as displacement and dilution of both oxygen and fuel vapor.

The simulation tool from NIST Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS.v6) is expected to be able to reproduce the effects of the fuel vapor. The extinguishing criterion for focusing on plume cooling and inerting effects is based on a dedicated heat balance, while the suppression model for fuel surface cooling evaluates the burning rate decrease according to an exponential law taking into account local water mass reaching the fuel surface per unit area and an empirical constant which penalizes the prediction ability. Therefore, a new model derived from an Arrhenius equation has been implemented from the Authors. Such model links the burning rate to the fuel surface temperature. Numerical simulations have been conducted and the paper illustrates the comparison with experimental data for all extinguishing mechanisms.

Why the simulation capacity of the fire spread is so important? Actually, if a fire is well modeled and is possible to reproduce the effects of the water mist suppression effects, is possible to plan a distribution of the nozzles that is compatible with the fire suppression needs and with the preservation of the artifacts vulnerable to the droplets.
Obviously, fire technologies should allow another assessment, which is as important as the simulation of the water mist operation: how and how much the smoke and dangerous gases affect the objects to be preserved. Unfortunately, in this case the problem is not in the availability of the simulation tools (we can assess in a acceptable way the quantity and the quality of gases and smoke produced by a smoke) but in the lack of data concerning the effects of fire effluents on historical objects.

The definition of an acceptable thresholds (for example, which concentration of HCN is acceptable when a XIII century oil on wood painting is exposed for 20 minutes) is still not easy for any specialist since few researches have been carried out on this specific area.

Effects of Fire on Cultural Resources and Archaeology: an USDA publication

USDA – Forest Service – Wildland Fire in Ecosystems Effects of Fire on Cultural Resources and Archaeology.

A problem neglected by the most of the studies concerning the protection of Cultural Resources against natural hazards deals with the exposition of archaelogical artefacts to vegetation fire risks. All tangible and intangible cultural assets can be damaged by fires. Thus, archaeological remains are exposed to the risk caused by forest fires.

A publication, dated 2012, is an accurate state-of-knowledge review that provides a synthesis of the effects of fire on cultural resources.  The goal of the volume is to provide cultural resource/archaeological professionals some basic information on fuels, fire behavior, and fire effects to enable them to protect resources during fuels treatment and restoration projects and wildfire suppression activities. The other goal is  to provide fire and land management professionals  with a greater understanding of the value of cultural resource protection and the methods available to evaluate and mitigate risks to Cultural Heritage.

The report describes fire effects on tangible and intangible cultural resources,  for planning, managing, and modeling fire effects  and a primer on fire and fuel processes and fire effects prediction modeling.

The archaeological site of Faragola (Italy) partially destroyed on Sept. 8th,  2017 by a fire. The fire has severely damaged mosaics and marbles of  the Roman settlements (IV-VI century B.C. Picture from:

A synthesis of the effects of fire on various cultural resource materials is provided for ceramics, rock art, historic-period artifacts/materials, and below-ground features. Finally, the document discusses the importance of cultural landscapes to indigenous peoples and emphasizes the need to actively involve native people in the development of collaborative management plans. The use and practical implications of this synthesis are the subject of the final chapter.

The report can be used by fire managers, cultural resource (CR) specialists, and archaeologists to manage more effectively wildland vegetation, fuels, and fire.

The risks of wildland fires to Cultural Heritage have been discussed  in the STORM project, aimed at improving the protection of Cultural Heritage against the effects of climate change.

Fire risks and new threats from climate change to libraries and archives

Key observed and projected climate change and impacts for the main regions in Europe from: Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe. Source: EEA Report 2012

According to the document published in 2012 by the European Environment Agency  (EEA), Europe will experience over the next few decades some effects caused by climate change. The expected changes are not uniform throughout the mainland, but they can be summarised in a number of homogeneous areas. Table 1 illustrates the qualitative trends provided in seven climatic regions.

With regard to fire prevention, in addition to the obvious problem of the increased risk caused by the increase in average temperatures, it may be interesting to analyse which might be the effects of these changes on the measures taken to protect the content of libraries and historical and artistic value archives against the risks derived by the new cheater conditions. Unlike digital archives, in fact, these fire protection features are conditioned by the presence of materials subject to attack from insects and microorganisms. So, the measures taken to limit the damage caused by insects and microorganisms could raise some fire protection issues. To explain the relationship between the risk of proliferation of dangerous insects for the paper, may be useful to start from the identification of the change expected in Europe. Official publications indicate that diversified mechanism depending on the weather areas will affect each region. In particular, in the European continent seven different mechanisms of change can be identified, but one of the most common aspects appears to be the increase of average temperatures and the simultaneous increase of the rainfall. The document of the Piemonte region (Italy) on the state of the environment in 2016 [2] which relates to the impact of climate change on cultural heritage, noted that “The main heritage degradation factors are of a physical nature chemical and biological”:

  • Temperature (T): day / night variations, seasonal. Thermal stress and the freeze / thaw cycles cause damage to the porous building materials (marble, plaster, bricks …);
  • Atmospheric Water: rain precipitation, relative humidity (RH%). Water is the most critical parameter as it acts, either directly or indirectly, in most of the degradation processes both physical and chemical and biological: heavy rains can provoke a mechanical erosion action of the surfaces; the water dissolves and conveys soluble salts within the recrystallizing materials that, as a result of ambient relative humidity variations, cause breakage and damage; high humidity conditions favor the proliferation of biological attacks (mold, bacteria, mosses …);
  • Winds: the particles transported by the winds exert mechanical erosion action on the surfaces, they may also be deposited by creating coatings of surface deposit. The winds convey water and soluble salts (marine aerosols carrying sodium chloride) potentially harmful even in areas protected from the direct action of rain;
  • Biological growths: both the archaeological sites located in rural areas, and the monuments and buildings in urban areas may be colonized by plants, animals and microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, algae, lichens. The formation of coatings on surfaces in addition to the strong aesthetic impact induces a constitutive biodeterioration of materials which can lead to partial or total loss of the work itself. Of course, the proliferation of biodeteriorigeni is a phenomenon closely related to climate and environmental factors;
  • Atmospheric pollutants: carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur compounds (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), ozone (O3) contribute to the degradation of the assets, especially in an urban environment, through different mechanisms of alteration. The pH of rains acid promotes the dissolution of stone materials with carbonate matrix, the sulfur dioxide is the main cause of sulfation processes that lead to the formation of black crusts transforming the calcium carbonate chalk (more soluble and easily washed out by rainwater ) and affecting bronzes (oxidation of the surfaces of the monuments with copper idrossisolfati formation, its characteristic green color); the atmospheric particulate matter is deposited on the surfaces creating unsightly black crusts, coatings and transporting of organic pollutants which are adsorbed and can interact with the constituent materials of the works”.

Given these premises, any design solutions (for archives and libraries) have to be addressed in the light of eco-sustainability, it may be interesting to mention the criteria, that the reference [3] summarises in the following points:

  • A highly insulated envelope
  • Effective solar shading Which uses natural elements such as trees and roof overhangs as well as by shading louvers run by photovoltaic cells.
  • A low rate of natural air infiltration
  • An exposed concrete internal construction, Which Retains the heat,
  • An efficient low-pressure mechanical ventilation system
  • An electrically powered heat pump for heating via the air and thermostically controlled perimeter radiators. During the summer, it cools the building, making Further refrigerating and air conditioning unnecessary.
  • Excess energy can be exported to adjacent buildings
  • The energy is 100% renewable
  • Compact fluorescent lighting, occupancy sensors and sun-shading devices are Also used to improve energy efficiency.

These criteria indicate  the need to eliminate the ventilation openings of the storage rooms of libraries (in order to lower outside air infiltration volumes). Some of fire prevention rules recommend permanent ventilation openings in archives, to limit the damages due to combustion products and make it easier extinguishing operations. So, the need to limit damages due to the insects and microorganisms due to the increase of temperature and ambient humidity, brings to  eliminate the ventilation  permanent openings requested by some fire prevention standards.

Both problems (protection against fire and from attacks of insects and microorganisms) may find an answer in adopting automatic systems. So, the final consideration highligths the criticality of this type of solution, that implies high levels of reliability. Currently, there are no standards dealing with the reliability of the systems governing fire safety of cultural heritage and this lack may be considered a gap to be filled.

[1] Füssel, H.-M., & Jol, A. (2012). Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2012. Copenhagen. Retrieved from

[2] Relazione sullo stato dell’ambiente Piemonte 2016. (2016). Retrieved April 17, 2017, from

[3] Ebunuwele, G. E. (2015). Global Warming : Implication for Library and Information Professionals. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 5(6), 69–77.

UAVs and protection of Cultural Heritage sites during emergency situations


During the 2016 Central Italy earthquake, drones have been extensively used by the Italian National Fire Service (CNVVF) to protect Cultural Heritage buildings. In particular, their use allowed firefighters to acquire important data about the conditions of the building without exposing themselves to risk of sudden structural collapse due to earthquakes. The image shows a typical night scenario of the earthquake. (image credits: CNVVF)

Being aware of the situation is one of the most important goals that emergency services need when they design the systems and the procedures to be used during or in the aftermath of a disaster. Situation awareness has many different aspects and needs a flow of information (possibly) in real time from a wide variety of data sources. Such data feed the systems that let emergency managers to assess the situation and take their decisions.

In this framework, the research and the end-user’s needs in the field of Cultural Heritage protection are aiming to integrated systems, featuring sensors and state-of-the-art platforms that have to be built in order to offer the needed information about the conditions of artefacts and the damages they’ve suffered for any kind of natural or man-made reason. According such strategy, heterogeneous and distributed data sources should communicate among the main system, generating a flow of data and information through the traditional internet channel. In this framework, sensors infrastructure based on UAV for surveying, diagnosis and monitoring open-space Cultural Heritage sites could be part of a system that would need technologies and innovative approaches to recognise images (collected by UAVs) along with models and techniques of information fusion.

The steel lattice built to protect the remaining parts of the San Benedetto church in Norcia from the collapse. Data needed to design it have been acquired using drones. (image credits: CNVVF)

Exploiting complex event processing techniques and technologies, the extracted information and/or the deducted/determined domain events, would be aggregated and correlated each other in order to bring out potential dangerous or critical situations, ranging from the recognition, validation and localization of signals and events that may suggest the need for monitoring, surveying or warning for disaster prevention, assessing the level of risk (Surveillance & Monitoring Services, Surveying & Diagnosis Services, Quick Damage Assessment Services).

A case study: the 2016 earthquake in Central Italy

In the 2016 earthquake in central Italy an increasing use of drones operated by Italian firefighters (CNVVF) has been recorded, from the early stages of the emergency, in order to have a quick and detailed overview of the magnitude of the damage suffered by major historical and artistic buildings. Such activity has been carried out in the framework of the new procedures adopted to secure buildings damaged in large scale emergency.

In case of earthquake, buildings can pose severe safety problems when damaged. Drones allow acquire data from the inside or in normally not accessible parts without adding risks to firefighters (image credits: CNVVF)

The same tools were used to define the urban areas with the highest number of building collapses. The drones, equipped with  instrumentation for the photographic survey, have allowed the acquisition of a quantity of gigabytes of high-resolution images of the state of post seismic event locations. In particular, the flight of drones helped to identify the state of damage of all the historic buildings and churches of great artistic importance, located in the red area or not allowed area. These data analysis was significant in order to assess the real risk of further collapses and to design effective shoring systems to support unsafe parts still standing.

The aerial photogrammetric data obtained with several daily sorties of drones, are served by specific input software for rapid return and creation of 3D models, or integrated with cadastral data and geomorphological were a valuable support for the knowledge of the actual operating environment where the teams of firefighters intervened for the search and rescue people. In addition, this post processing has enabled, at the end of the rescue of the population, even a more accurate assessment of the damage and consequently a cost estimate as early as the early stages of the emergency.

Obviously, the accuracy of the data obtained (eg. point clouds, surface models and orthophotos) is not comparable with other system such as LIDAR, however, it represents a valid activity rescue tool support allowing to achieve a good evaluation of the severity of the scenario, and then an estimate of the timing necessary for the refurbishment of the primary infrastructure such as roads, electrical networks etc..

In the specific context, the Italian Fire Corps (CNVVF) special units experts in topography during rescue operations (and able to initiate the procedures for mapping), have scoured the areas affected by the quake. The VHF  radio network of the CNVVF (equipped with GPS module and interfaced to specific software on tablet for tracking and geo-referencing), has let them to prepare maps where the information gathered from multiple sources, were processed by experts in GIS systems and transformed it in shapefiles or other formats widely used on platforms such as Google Maps. In this kind of scenarios, the activities needed to assess and restore safety of historic or cultural buildings can be supported by the research as the one carried out in the H2020 STORM project. The task of assessing quickly and in safety condition the damages suffered by historical or cultural buildings has brought to a wide use of UAVs by the CNVVF in the 2016 earthquake. The images recorded by the sensors that have equipped UAVs have been useful to emergency tasks, but their utility would be boosted by the comparison between data detected by LIDAR before and after the disaster event. The STORM pilots scenarios are aiming at integrating UAVs, LIDAR images and procedures shared between cultural heritage managers and CNVVF, in order to let them assess on the scenario and with the best possible resolution the damages a natural event has caused to buildings.

A paper concerning  the use of drones (STORM project and the use of UAV to improve emergency management of  disasters threatening cultural heritage), presented in the UAV&SAR2017 (Rome, 29th March, 2017) Workshop  can be downloaded here: Guerrieri Marsella STORM_UAVSAR_def (1)

The ABC Method: a risk management approach to the preservation of cultural heritage

Cover of the ABC Method document. (Credits: ICCROM website)

Risks to cultural heritage vary from catastrophic events (such as earthquakes,  floods,  etc) to gradual processes (such as chemical, physical, or biological degradation). The result is loss of value to the heritage. Sometimes, the risk does not involve any type of material damage to the heritage asset, but rather the loss of information about it, or the inability to access heritage items. So, heritage managers need to understand these risks well so as to make good decisions about protection of the heritage (for future generations) while also providing access for the current generation. ICCROM (Intergovernamental Organisation devoted to protect Cultural Heritage)  and the Canadian Conservation Institute have published the “The ABC Method: a risk management approach to the preservation of cultural  heritage”.

The handbookl is based on the five steps pf the management cycle (Establish the context,  identify risks, analyze risks, evaluate risks, treat risks)  and, for each step, three or more tasks are identified, whose complete list

1. Establish the context

  • Task 1: Consult with decision makers. Define the scope, goals and criteria.
  • Task 2: Collect and understand the relevant information.
  • Task 3: Build the value pie.

2. Identify risks

  • Task 1: Assemble the appropriate tools and strategies.
  • Task 2: Survey the heritage asset and make a photographic record.
  • Task 3: Identify specific risks, name them, and write their summary sentences.

3. Analyze risks

  • Task 1: Quantify each specific risk.
  • Task 2: Split or combine specific risks, as needed.
  • Task 3: Review and refine the analyses.

4. Evaluate risks

  • Task 1: Compare risks to each other, to criteria, to expectations.
  • Task 2: Evaluate the sensitivity of prioritization to changes in the value pie.
  • Task 3: Evaluate uncertainty, constraints, opportunities.

5. Treat risks

  • Task 1: Identify risk treatment options.
  • Task 2: Quantify risk reduction options.
  • Task 3: Evaluate risk reduction options.
  • Task 4: Plan and implement selected options.

The document is an important study aimed at helping cultural heritage managers and risk assessment professionals in starting the process that limits damages to buildings and artefacts. The document is freely downloadable from the ICCROM website.

LiDAR and Cultural Heritage in emergency situations: the H2020 STORM project first outcomes

The possibility of acquiring images and data of damaged buildings during the first phases of the emergencies is crucial to put them in safe conditions. (Image credits: CNVVF National Fire and Rescue Services  – Italy)

The project STORM (Safeguarding Cultural Heritage through Technical and Organisational Resources Management) has been funded by the Horizon 2020 EU Program and aims at defining a platform that managers of cultural heritage sites can use in improving preparedness, managing emergencies and planning restoration of damaged buildings.

The project specifically considers risks that the cultural sites have to face from either long-term degradation (whose action is far slower than the typical applications of feedback controls), or extreme traumatic events (whose action is much faster). Their common nature is the climate change. So, the specific scope of the project is creating a technological platform that allows a systematic comparison between a real (measured) state and a desired theoretical state.

Assumptions are kept to the minimum possible level and the difference (the measured error signal), is the main input for whatever algorithm may be used to compute the action (input) that needs to be applied to the mitigation process to achieve the desired objective. So, in other words, reliable and up-to-date measures of the key risk variables are the base line for the STORM predictive model but also for the identification of better intervention actions in terms of restoration and conservation of original materials that will be the starting point for a long term mitigation strategies. As a consequence, needs take into account the use of a large number of sensors, in order to acquire the most useful data. For example, in the case of a progressive relative displacement of a structural beam of an ancient monument, over time comparison of periodical LIDAR based detection of the artefact overall 3D model can be used to detect the small differences in the beam’s position over time.

UAVs have been extensively used by the Italian National Fire Service during the 2016 Central Italy Earthquake to survey damages suffered by Cultural Heritage Buildings. (Image credits: CNVVF National Fire and Rescue Services  – Italy)

What is a LiDAR?

According Wikipedia, Lidar (also called LIDAR, LiDAR, and LADAR) is a surveying method that measures distance to a target by illuminating that target with a laser light. The name lidar, sometimes considered an acronym of Light Detection And Ranging (sometimes Light Imaging, Detection, And Ranging), was originally a portmanteau of light and radar. Lidar is popularly used to make high-resolution maps, with applications in geodesy, geomatics, archaeology, geography, geology, geomorphology, seismology, forestry, atmospheric physics, laser guidance, airborne laser swath mapping (ALSM), and laser altimetry. Lidar sometimes is called laser scanning and 3D scanning, with terrestrial, airborne, and mobile applications.

General schema of LiDAR. (Image credits: Wikipedia)

How Cultural Heritage can benefit of LiDAR (according STORM Project)

Based on such information a team of experts (structural engineers, archaeologists, geologists, restorers) will cooperate, in order to understand the causes and find the most adequate response. In this example, the action cannot be predetermined (nor taken automatically of course), but instead requires a careful and accurate cooperative design and planning of the action in order for it to be as effective and as unobtrusive as possible.
When a disaster occurs, general guidelines related to a wide range of events (e.g. flood, earthquake), existing for the specific site, must be dynamically adapted in near real time by ad-hoc team of experts in order to identify the most urgent recovery actions for the specific emergency. So, LIDAR sensors used for structural evaluation and track-changes of the artefact in terms of erosion monitoring as also for geomorphological assessment and mapping of the protected area can offer a valuable support to managers. Moreover, photogrammetric reconstruction by means of historical and contemporary aerial photography to track-changes can support when it comes to assessing the damages through time and forecast potential future threats

LIDAR equipment have been used until now mostly on movable supports, that are steadily placed on the ground to let an accurate record of data. More recently, RPAS devices have been tested as platform to be equipped with regular camera (high resolution RGB still pictures) for monitoring and mapping, Near Infrared camera and thermal and multispectral sensors or the localization and monitoring of buried structures, light-weight LiDAR for higher resolution 3D scanning. Such possibility has demonstrate its extreme importance during emergency situations: in fact, accessing parts of buildings in some cases can be difficult or can pose a severe risk to rescuers. During the rescue operations of the Central Italy earthquake of August 2016, RPAS mounted LIDAR have been used in many scenarios by the Italian National Fire Service and a complete report of such use hasn’t been published yet.

In which scenarios can LIDAR sensors prove to give data not replaceable by other sensors or any operational procedures? One of the first case is any natural or man-made threat that can damage the structures of heritage buildings. Suppose that, after an earthquake, in an ancient masonry buildings fixtures are identified. Even if, in general, it is possible to track the evolution of a fixture in a building, in the larger buildings it is actually impossible to be certain that a damage has been produced by a specific event.

The Italian pilot site of STORM will be tested in the Diocletian Baths complex, in Rome,  a small portion of which is showed in the image. (Image credits: Wikipedia)

It could have been caused previously for any reason (i.e. failure of foundation). The answer that the Italian STORM pilot site of museum of Terme di Diocleziano (Diocletian Baths – Rome) is currently testing is based on a LIDAR scanner of the buildings.

The hypothetical scenario sees a rescue call to firefighters that arrive with their own LIDAR, scan the portion of the building damaged and compare their results with the data previously acquired by the museum managers. As it’s known LiDAR needs time and, mostly, large quantity of data storage, but a small portion of a building is much more manageable. So, even with a high definition setting, the procedure could offer a new possibility to improve the reliability of the assessment that rescuers have to do during  operations.

Dr. Ing. Stefano Marsella (CNVVF) for STORM Project

Large scale crisis and data exchange: the CAP protocol in L’Aquila earthquake

On April, 6th 2009 the Italian city of L’Aquila and the surrounding area have been striken by a 6,3 Mw earthquake, causing 309 victims, more than 1.600 injured and 10 billion euro of damages.

A door is one of the few remains of an old house in the historical center of Amatrice (Italy), destroyed by the earthquake of Aug. 24th, 2016. (Credits:






The Italian National Fire Corps responded swiftly, bringing in place some 1.000 professional rescuers within the first 24 hours, raised to more than 2.300 within the third day, together with some 1.100 vehicles and the needed resources and logistics. Of course the first and foremost target was to save lives, but soon after this task had been completed it was clear the urgency to deploy provisional measures for buildings to restore minimal safety conditions and avoid further damages.

L’Aquila was not a common town: besides the 73,000 civil buildings (half of which damaged), there were more than 600 registered monuments to save (172 of which damaged). More than 100 expert engineers of the Italian National Fire Corps have been working daily to assess civil buildings damages, but monuments required a more complex approach: firemen and their engineers had to work in team with cultural heritage experts provided by several Italian universities under the coordination of the Cultural Heritage Ministry. In fact, the design of provisional measures of each monument required several high-level expertises, as well as the practical approach of firemen, to adapt the design to an often compromised scenario. Such activity has been developed on a long term basis (it lasted more than an year). As a result, the involved professionals were periodically rotated: while firemen teams rotated with a week-long shift, the university teams could not always stay in place. A tool to work remotely was needed. Luckily, at that time the Italian National Fire Corps was testing the first release of the interoperability functionalities for the 100 provincial Control Centres.

CAP standard (from:

Even if does not exist a standard definition of DSS, it is commonly intended as a computer-based information system that supports business or organizational decision-making activities. When applied to daily or large scale emergencies, such definition implies the capacity of a DSS of analyzing and processing data generated or communicated by multiple sources. In more practical terms, a DSS developed to help a civil protection or a fire service Authority should be fed by data  and information provided not only by the citizens to emergency numbers, but also from any other organization involved in the rescue process as well as by available sensors networks, from simulation tools using such data and from the wealth of information provided by GIS data services. The available technologies are adequate enough for developers to deliver even complex systems, however such systems are still rarely adopted due to a main obstacle: the data which could be timely fed to such systems are insufficient in quantity and quality and most often not up-to-date, mostly for both political and technical reasons. Experiences gathered in the course of recent emergencies involving either large areas or very high numbers of people have shown that, even in recent years, the coordination of rescue activities rarely, if not never, was able to take advantage from ICT tools. The main obstacles to data exchange are political attitudes and lack of interoperability services. Most often they are cross-related: on one hand, the extreme care with which emergency data is rightly treated brings most emergency managers at avoiding any exchange of data (e.g., not trusting readily available services able to erase part of the information), on the other hand, due to such attitude there is a lack of properly designed and developed interoperability services aimed at exchanging emergency data. As a consequence, whenever an uncommon scenario demands such data exchange, the resulting political pressure brings to either exchange data anyway, through improper (and potentially risky) means, or to avoid such data exchange (and miss the related advantages). In most contexts, this issue can pose severe problems, since even if the political pressure is aimed at improving coordination through automatic data exchange, the existing systems cannot be updated in time in order to ensure such functionalities. The sole possibility to overcome such situation is to reach an agreement between the different authorities, aimed at converting and exchanging data in a common protocol, which can be read by non homogeneous systems. Such solution has been tested in Italy in L’Aquila earthquake (2009), when many common cultural heritage buildings have been damaged. The need of coordinating in different teams of Italian firefighters working on the buildings a large territorial area of under the direction of the Cultural Heritage Administration has been solved using a system of data exchange based on  the international standard CAP (common alerting protocol). The web-based system has allowed to speed up a process that needed several approval steps that would have implied continuous meetings.

The NFPA 909 – 2017 Edition on “Protection of Cultural Resource Properties: Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship” has been published

The 909 Standard “Protection of Cultural Resource Properties — Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship” – 2017 Edition has been published by National Fire Protection Association.

The standard describes principles and practices of protection for cultural resource properties (museums, libraries, and places of worship etc.), their contents, and collections, against conditions or physical situations with the potential to cause damage or loss. The updates for the 2017 edition include:

  • expanded provisions for outdoor collections and archaeological sites and their protection against wildfire;
  • further clarification of sprinkler system corrosion protection criteria;
  • mandated integrated system testing per NFPA 4, Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing;
  •  the addition of numerous events to Annex B, Fire Experience in Cultural Properties.

According to the 909 code, libraries, museums, and places of worship housed in historic structures have also to comply with the requirements of NFPA 914 (Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures).

The standard includes provisions for fire prevention, emergency operations, fire safety management, security, emergency preparedness and inspection, testing, and maintenance of protection systems.

As in the previous editions, criteria are provided for new construction, addition, alteration, renovation, and modification projects, along with specific rules addressing places of worship and museums, libraries, and their collections.

damages to Cultural Heritage caused by 24th August 2016 Central Italy Earthquake

1On August 24th, 2016  a severe earthquake has hit an area in Central Italy approximately among the city of Amatrice and Norcia. The quake, that has been followed by months of replicas (especially on 26th October and 30th October) has killed nearly 300 people and damaged or destroyed a number of heritage buildings (churches, houses, walls, towers etc.).

In many cases, it has not been possible to implement with the necessary timing temporary shoring or putting in safety measures. Therefore, in the shocks happened the weeks after the 24th August, some buildings that had been damaged, but  not  destroyed, have collapsed.
The numerous debris, which was not possible to remove, due to administrative difficulties in moving them in appropriate areas, have prevented sometimes to approach the buildings  and, therefore, to let firefighters operate safely.
Moreover, the sheer size of the area affected and the number of works to be protected caused delays in the processing of putting in safety works projects. The projects, in fact, must be drawn from engineers,  but have to be approved by the competent body for the protection of cultural heritage.

Flooding Rescue: an event to remember the Florence 1966 flooding


On November 4th 1966 a flash flood caused in central Italy 47 deaths, hundreds of injured and 46,000 displaced people and homeless. In Florence, the waters topped the shoulders of the riversides and covered the historic districts, reaching in some places up to 5 meters in height and forming a lake of about 40 sq km in area. In cities the dead were 17, just as many in the surrounding areas. The material damage was serious: in the end turned out damaged or destroyed 9,752 shops, 8,548 shops, 248 hotels, 600 production plants, 13,943 houses, thousands of cars. The event left more than 30,000 unemployed people. The extent of damage was worsened   by the loss of the artistic and cultural heritage.

The water and mud, loads of fuel oil collected from several citizens tanks, reached the Uffizi Gallery, the National Library, Santa Croce, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, the Archaeological museum and the Bargello, the National Library. Many masterpieces were damaged, among them the crucifix by Cimabue, the paintings of Botticelli, Paolo Uccello and Vasari, along with other 1,500 works of art and 1,300,000 volumes of the National Library. The emotional impact of the devastation flicked a general mobilization: several parts were collected funds and thousands of young people came from all over the world to make their contribution to the salvation of works of art and books, literally snatching them from the water and oily from the mud. And thanks to them was much recovered, but still, after more than forty years after the flood, are still to be restored paintings (about 140, such as the Last Supper by Giorgio Vasari), frescoes (350) and tons of vestments . Then there are the volumes of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (including old books, miscellaneous dated and modern, and theses, is expected to exceed 70,000 units) and the funds of the State Archives (documents that occupy about 2.5 kilometers of shelves) , the records of the Institute of the Innocents (1600) and those at the Opera del Duomo (there are 300), the testimonies of the Jewish Museum (15,000 volumes) and the artifacts of the Archeologico (packed on three shelves).

At the end of the events dedicated to the memory of the 1966 Florence flooding, the workshop “Flooding Rescue” took place in the Cappella dei Pazzi , a day of study and comparison with the academic world dedicated to deepen the issues related to floods in a context of strong climate change.The work session of the day dedicated to the rescue activities in case of damages due to floods has been opened by the presentation of Prof. Piero Cimbolli Spagnesi University “La Sapienza” of Rome that retraced the history of technical rescue in Italy from 1951 to date in the context of the floods in terms of standardization and relationship with the territory. Prof. Nicola Casagli of the University of Florence has exposed an analysis of hydrogeological risks in Italy. Climate change with its impacts on the region and the need for adaptation in the hydrogeological defense system were the topics discussed by Professor Dr. Massimiliano Pasqui CNR in his speech. Michel Cives Captain of the Paris Fire Brigades, has explained the organizational model and the ability to operational response that the Fire Brigade of Paris have implemented to tackle with the recent French floods.

In the final phase of the day of study was the Director for the Emergency Department of the Rescue Fire Service and Civil Defence, Giuseppe Romano who illustrated the models of intervention of the Fire Brigade in Italian terms of new technologies and innovative organizational models. The concluding remarks of the meeting, made from the Head of the Italian National Fire Brigade, Gioacchino Giomi, showed the interest of the National Fire Brigade with civil society and with the world of scientific research aimed at the qualification of operational response on the territory.

At the end of the meeting a brief video of the Horizon 2020 STORM project has been showed to the public to give some information about the project. The activities,  started in June 2016, will deal with the issues related to heritage safety and climatic changes and will end in 2019.

19th Century Manhattan Church Destroyed by fire in New York (USA)

1The New York Serbian Orthodox Cathedral od St. Sava on West 25th Street on May 1st has been destroyed by a fire that started at 7 p.m.

The fire broke out on the same day Orthodox Christians around the world celebrated Easter. Hours before the fire, more than 1,000 people were inside in services between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. to celebrated Easter.

The church was built in the early 1850s and was designated a city landmark in 1968.

At least 170 firefighters and 36 vehicles arrived on the scene to combat the flames. Plumes of smoke poured out of the church.

After six days it was not clear if any of the structure could be saved and repaired.

Fire in Italian historical town damages several buildings

A moment of the fire (picture from:

A fire broke out in the historic  center of Luino (Italy). For reasons still under investigation a roof of a house situated on a courtyard went to the fire. The fire started around 211.00 pm, perhaps because of the overheating of a chimney. Aided by the wind that was blowing very strong at that time, the roofs of four buildings have been destroyed.

Twenty citizens have been evacuated. Several apartments were declared unfit for habitation, the damage amounted to hundreds of thousands of euro. the narrow streets of the old town have made it difficult to extinguish fire by firefighters.

A firefighters ladder after the fire (picture from:

STORM: an Horizon 2020 research project on heritage and environmental changes


STORM (Safeguarding Cultural Heritage through Technical and Organisational Resources Management) is a EU research and development project funded in the early 2016 by the EU under the Horizon 2020 program (Call: DRS-11-2015: Disaster Resilience & Climate Change, Topic 3: Mitigating the impacts of climate change and natural hazards on Cultural Heritage sites, structures and artefacts).

STORM will study the impact of climate changes on cultural heritage and the mitigation strategies of their effects on the buildings and artefacts.

The project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team providing all competences needed to assure the implementation of a functional and effective solution to support all the actors involved in the management and preservation of Cultural Heritage sites.An important result of STORM will be a cooperation platform for collaboratively collecting and enhancing knowledge, processes and methodologies on sustainable and effective safeguarding and management of European Cultural Heritage. The system will be capable of performing risk assessment on natural hazards taking into account environmental and anthropogenic risks, and of using Complex Events processing. Results will be tested in relevant case studies in five different countries: Italy, Greece, UK, Portugal and Turkey. The sites and consortium have been carefully selected so as to adequately represent the rich European Cultural Heritage, while associate partners that can assist with liaisons and links to other stakeholders and European sites are also included.

Starting from previous research experiences and tangible outcomes, STORM proposes a set of novel predictive models and improved non-invasive and non-destructive methods of survey and diagnosis, for effective prediction of environmental changes and for revealing threats and conditions that could damage cultural heritage sites. Moreover, STORM will determine how different vulnerable materials, structures and buildings are affected by different extreme weather events together with risks associated to climatic conditions or natural hazards, offering improved, effective adaptation and mitigation strategies, systems and technologies. An integrated system featuring novel sensors (intra fluorescent and wireless acoustic sensors), legacy systems, state of the art platforms (including LiDAR and UAVs), as well as crowdsourcing techniques will be implemented, offering applications and services over an open cloud infrastructure. An important result of STORM will be a cooperation platform for collaboratively collecting and enhancing knowledge, processes and methodologies on sustainable and effective safeguarding and management of European Cultural Heritage. The system will be capable of performing risk assessment on natural hazards taking into account environmental and anthropogenic risks, and of using Complex Events processing. Results will be tested in relevant case studies in five different countries: Italy, Greece, UK, Portugal and Turkey. The sites and consortium have been carefully selected so as to adequately represent the rich European Cultural Heritage, while associate partners that can assist with liaisons and links to other stakeholders and European sites are also included. The project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team providing all competences needed to assure the implementation of a functional and effective solution to support all the actors involved in the management and preservation of Cultural Heritage sites (from the STORM project website).

One of the main results of the first year of the project has been the course on preparedness and first aid to Cultural Heritage “STORM 2017  Summer School“, held in Rome on 11 to 13 September 2017. The course has been conceived as a test of the 2018 edition.

Preparedness and First Aid to Cultural Heritage in the STORM Summer School

Fire in Moscow library destroy 1 mln books

Fire at the Moscow Academic Institute of Scientific Information
Fire at the Moscow Academic Institute of Scientific Information

On January 31st, 2015, one of Russia’s largest academic libraries, which contains millions of unique historic documents, has been severely damaged by the  flames. A part of the building’s roof collapsed before many of fire fighters teams managed to contain the fire.

The fire has destroyed some 2,000 m2 of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (Inion) in Moscow, created in 1918 and holding 10 mln documents, some of which date back to the 16th century.

The library has been founded in 1918, has the Russia’s most complete collection of documents of the League of Nations, the UN, and UNESCO, as well as parliamentarian reports of the United States (since 1789), the UK (since 1803), Italy (since 1897), and many others.

According to Russian media, investigators looking into the cause of the blaze suspect an electrical short-circuit was to blame.