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. Continue reading “Fire risks and new threats from climate change to libraries and archives”
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.
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.
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)
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 or from the Canadian Conservation Institute website.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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: http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/amp/pwsp/CommonAlertingProtocol_en.html)
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 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.
On 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On April 29th, 2015, a fire has destroyed the 18th century Palladian masterpiece of Clandon Park. The fire started in the house’s basement, and quickly spread to the roof. The Surrey Fire and Rescue Service has operated with a total of 16 fire engines and more than 80 personnel.
The timeline of the firefighters’ operations is well described in the Getsurrey page:
which highlights some problems in water supply.
Although some paintings and furniture were rescued by staff, many tapestries and some items of porcelain were heavily damaged.
Managed by the National Trust since 1956, Clandon Park has been built in the 1720s and, before the fire, contained a large collection of 18th-century furniture, porcelain and textiles.
Paris firefighters on August 20th 2015 have fought a fire at the Cite des Sciences. The fire broke out between 02:30 and 03:00 local time in a building that was undergoing work, and has been fought by some 30 fire trucks and 120 firefighters.
Six floors of the museum have been impacted by the blaze, which took five hours to be brought under control.
Many Parisians took to social media to report the smell and seeing plumes of smoke. The building was empty when the fire started.
Wooden pallets, cardboard boxes, plasterbloard, electrical cables have been burning,and the heat was so fierce that firefighting teams were only able to work for 20 minutes at a time before having to be rotated. One of the firefighters was hospitalized with extreme heat exposure while the other suffered light injuries from smoke inhalation.
The complex draws around five million people a year and comprises four huge cube-shaped buildings.
The fire occurred in a 10,000-square metre cube that was being fitted out for shops, and was due to open on October 15. Smoke and flames damaged the area ravaging a 110-million-euro plan to turn the building into an area for shops.
The fire alarm system was not operational because of the works.
The Citè de la Science et de l’industrie complex is one of the biggest science museums in Europe.
On 20 November 2014 the COTAC’s Annual Conference entitled “Fire and Flood in the Built Environment: Keeping the Threat at Bay” has been held in London. A reports concerning the presentation on fire and floods threat has been presented. COTAC’s web page: http://www.cotac.org.uk.
The report can be downloaded here:
Historic District Protection Planning A Case Study
The City of Lexington, located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, was established as the town of Lexington in 1778. Today, Lexington has a permanent population of about 7500 with another 4000-5000 students attending Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute from September through May. Lexington is well known for its architecture and historic preservation. Tourism and higher education are its major industries and its downtown is a thriving collection shops and restaurants, many housed in restored buildings dating from the late 18th to the early 20th century. Lexington is a typical small city in southern America: many buildings in the downtown area have party walls, construction tends to be brick exteriors over wood framing with combustible roofs, and some older buildings are completely wood frame construction. The streets in Lexington, while not as narrow as many streets in Europe, are narrow when compared to the size of most modern fire apparatus.
The Lexington Presbyterian Church Fire
Lexington Presbyterian, a Greek revival style church, was completed in 1845 and it is one of the centerpieces of Lexington’s history and its visual appeal. Lexington was home to Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, and he worshipped at the church in the years leading up to the American Civil War. The sanctuary underwent some renovation between 1845 and 2000, but overall the building changed very little and there was no fire detection or fire suppression system installed when in the summer of 2000 the governing board hired a contractor to repaint the exterior of the building. The board, aware that the dry, 155 year old long-leaf yellow pine wood in the building posed a greater fire hazard than newer material, had the contractor chosen for the work demonstrate the hot-iron technique he proposed to use to soften the paint before scrapping it off. The board approved the process and the contractor began work. On Tuesday, July 18, as workmen were using a hot iron to strip paint off of a cornice around the base of the church’s clock tower, the hot iron apparently ignited a fire in the roof area of the wood frame structure that destroyed one sanctuary and caused the clock tower to collapse.
According to fire investigators from the Virginia State Fire Marshall’s Office, workmen removing paint from a cornice at the base of the clock tower noticed smoke at about 9:30 a.m. The workmen searched for the source of the smoke and found a fire inside the clock tower behind the cornice they had been working on. The workmen attempted to extinguish the fire, and when they could not, they notified the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department. Some volunteer firefighters responded quickly, but since it was a normal workday and most of the members were at work, many were delayed getting to the church and calls for mutual aid went out to other nearby jurisdictions. By 10:00 a.m., heavy smoke was pouring out around the base of the clock tower.
Fire fighters began to battle the blaze with ladder pipes shortly after 10:00 a.m., but by that time the fire in the clock tower was fully developed. Firefighters worked to save the clock tower through the morning; however, the combination of the highly combustible wood frame construction of the church and the amount of water needed to fight the blaze put a strain on the city’s aging water system.
At about noon the clock tower finally collapsed. Fire investigators pointed out that the firefighters did an excellent job keeping the fire from spreading to other structures and because of their efforts no one was injured when the clock tower collapsed into the street.
￼￼Damage to the building was estimate at $2.5 million, and shortly after the fire the church board announced the church would be restored to its original condition and restoration work began soon afterward. The restoration was substantially completed when a new clock tower was installed on March 5, 2002.
A senior architectural historian with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources pointed out after the fire that using heat to strip paint on old wood fixtures that are hollow or that cannot be seen from behind, like the cornices that were being stripped at Lexington Presbyterian where rats or birds sometimes build nests, can cause combustible materials to catch fire without workers knowing it.
In August 2000 the president of the Rockbridge County Historic Society called and asked me to come to Lexington to share information about how Colonial Williamsburg protects its historic buildings and to see if some of those things might be adapted to help Lexington improve protection in its historic district. She also wanted to know how the concepts in the 1997 edition of NFPA 909, Standard for Protection of Cultural Resources might be applied to historic districts. As a first step she arranged a one-day workshop for members of Lexington’s city government, merchants, and other interested parties. The workshop was surprisingly well attended and during the discussions it became evident to the political leaders that much of what made Lexington an attraction for tourism could be lost in a single fire. After the workshop I met with the mayor, the chief of the volunteer fire department, and the president of the Rockbridge County Historic Society to brainstorm ideas to improve fire safety in Lexington’s historic district. In the discussion we identified four major challenges:
• Many of the buildings in the historic district have party walls, and some interconnect at the attic level. The fire department was aware of some of the interconnections; however, the fire chief suspected many more existed that were not on any drawings or building plans.
• The Commonwealth of Virginia has a statewide fire prevention code, but in a city as small as Lexington that has a volunteer fire department no one locally enforces the code and any inspections have to be done by the State Fire Marshall’s office. As with most state agencies, the Virginia State Fire Marshall’s office has a small staff to cover a very large area. In practice, the only inspections the State Fire Marshall’s office can do are in the largest state-owned facilities; so, there is very little, if any, enforcement of fire prevention regulations in privately owned buildings in cities like Lexington.
• Lexington’s aging water supply system was challenged to provide enough water to fight the fire in the church and the fire chief expressed concern about its ability to handle a fire spreading from building to building in the downtown area through interconnecting attics.
• Access is difficult for fire apparatus in many parts of the downtown area because of traffic congestion and narrow streets, particularly during the summer when tourism is at its height.
Two initiatives were undertaken as a result of the discussion:
• The Rockbridge County Historic Society and the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department agreed to
focus efforts on a public education program in fire safety management. To help with the project, local residents with backgrounds in fire protection and fire suppression were recruited to conduct public awareness campaigns, fire safety educational programs, and voluntary fire safety inspections for merchants and home owners. Lexington is a popular retirement area for professionals from urban areas in the northeast United States, and several highly qualified individuals volunteered to assist with the project.
• The Lexington City Council agreed to create a position in the Building Department for an inspector who would devote 50% of his time to building code issues and the other 50% to conducting inspections to enforce the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code.
More than a decade has passed and over those years I’ve drawn the following lessons from my experience in Lexington.
1. The fire codes and standards in place at the time, and since, including the most recent editions of NFPA 909, Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties – Museums, Libraries and Places of Worship and NFPA 914, Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures provide no guidance on planning and implementing fire protection programs for historic districts. The NFPA Cultural Resources Committee has been discussing the issues for several years, and it hopes to provide some guidance on the subject in the 2015 edition of NFPA 914. In 2000, the NFPA Cultural Resources Committee was several years away from the paradigm shift it made in the 2010 and 2013 editions of NFPA 909 and the upcoming 2015 edition of NFPA 914 that take an all-hazards approach to protection planning. The shift was crucial because it focused protection planning efforts on the outcome of a comprehensive vulnerability analysis. Such an approach is especially important when thinking of protection in historic districts where one way to approach the issue is to think of the historic district as a very large multiple use occupancy building with multiple owners /tenants (like an apartment building or condominium). From that perspective the district is analogous to a museum building that contains a collection – that is the individual buildings inside the district – and provides the support infrastructure, utilities, and services to maintain them. The planning issues are similar, as well. For example, egress is a primary concern in both, particularly during an earthquake, flood, or conflagration; however, ingress is also a significant issue for both because the collection (buildings, artifacts, or works of art) must be protected in place and to do that, emergency responders must have ready access. Other common issues include water supply (or lack thereof), occupant notification, fire department response time, fire prevention, security and planning for emergency operations and damage limitation.
2. The assessment we did in Lexington was flawed because it addressed only a few of the vulnerabilities, so the resulting action plans only scratched the surface of the problem. The steps taken in Lexington after the fire in 2000 only addressed two limited aspects of the problem (education and enforcement) but failed to address the significant infrastructure issues (water supply, limited availability of volunteer firefighters during the normal work day, fire department access during the busy summer months in the downtown area, installation of automatic sprinklers, etc.). A comprehensive vulnerability assessment of all the hazards is the key to a successful protection plan in a building or in an historic district.
3. Dividing an inspector between building department duties and fire prevention code enforcement probably is not a sustainable model. Building departments are partially self-sustaining because they generate revenues from building permits and plan reviews while fire prevention activities generate no direct revenue. As a result, when municipalities face budget shortfalls, as they have since 2008, they tend to focus on activities that generate income and that moves fire prevention code enforcement to the back burner. After all, governmental memories are short and fires are low probability events even if the consequences can be devastating.
Stefano Marsella (Italian Fire Corps) has shown, during the Venice meeting of 20 september 2012 on emergencies in historical centers, how Italian Firefighters Corps have coordinated hundreds of operations in l’Aquila earthquake using a communications protocol (CAP – common alerting protocol) which have enabled operators on the field to exchange data and receive priorities from the Heritage authority.
The same system made it possible to publish information on the official National Fire Corps website, in order to give the most updated information.
Download the presentation: Marsella
Deborah Freeland (Area Senior Vice President Property Loss Control Arthur J Gallagher & Co.)and Donald Moeller (Principal The Fire Consultants, Inc.) explain the activity of the NFPA Committees 909 e 914 to improve fire protection of cultural and historical heritage.
Download the pdf (without slides with pictures) presented during the september 20, 2012, Venice meeting about emergencies in historical centers: 1
Wayne Moore (Hughes Associates) and Thomas Norton (Norel Services Corp) have shown during the Venice meeting on emergencies in historical centers the problems and the solutions in raising mass alarm in historical districts.
The presentation: Moore_Norton
Steve Emery, Fire Safety Adviser for English Heritage, has presented in Venice, during the September 20th international meeting, how English Heritage is training firefighters to rescue operations when historical buildings are interested.
The key points of the presentation are:
1. Standardise Emergency Plans
2. Standardise Training
3. Trainwith Fire Services
4. Maintain the Plans
5. Desktop Exercises
6. Cross Organisation Help and Liaison
The presentation: Emery
During the 20th september 2012 Venice meeting on emergencies in historic centers the argument of controlling fire risk using CFD techniques has been presented by Andrea Ferrari – Luciano Nigro (Associazione Italiana di Ingegneria Antincendio): The Fire Risk Control effectiveness assessment using correlations, fast running tools and a CFD code in an historic hotel building: A.Ferrari-L._Nigro_a_Venezia
VENICE – SCUOLA GRANDE DI SAN GIOVANNI EVANGELISTA
20 September 2012: International Workshop – Protecting historic centres during emergencies
The Italian National Fire Corps (CNVVF) has organized the meeting, which will address to historical centers emergency. The use of IT technologies in this field and the techniques used to put in place provisional works to save historical buildings after an earthquake will be shown, with reference to the l’Aquila earthquake experience.
Some presentation will show problems of fire protection in historical buildings.
Session 1 – Technical codes and case studies –
Chairman Maurizio Crovato (Chief editor of RAI International)
- 10.00 Nfpa 909 and 914 and statistics – Donald Moeller – Deborah Freeland (NFPA)
- 10.20 Fire standards in Italy: problems and solutions – Luca Nassi (CNVVF)
- 10.40 Toronto Distillery district – Fred Leber (Leber/Rubes Inc.)
- 11.00 Protection of the Historical Architecture and criteria of Equivalent Safety – Renata Codello (Soprintendency of Venice)
- 11.50 Thun Castle – Francesco Notaro, Emanuele Gissi (CNVVF)
- 12.10 Lexington Historic district – Danny Mac Daniel (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
- 12.30 FSE applied to historical building in Venice – Andrea Ferrari – Luciano Nigro (AIIA – SFPE Italian Chapter)
- 12.50 Alaska Historic Area – Steve Peterson (US Department of the Interior)
13.10 Questions and discussion
Session 2 – Emergency management – Chairman Loris Munaro (CNVVF)
- 14.30 ICT and emergencies in historic districts – Stefano Marsella (CNVVF)
- 14.50 Mass Notification – Tom Norton (Norel Service Company) – Wayne Moore (Hughes Associates, Inc)
- 15.10 Heritage buildings and the L’Aquila and Emilia earthquakes: lessons learnt – Marco Cavriani (CNVVF) – Stefano Grimaz (Udine University)
- 15.30 Training the staff to fire and other emergencies: the National Trust experience – Steve Emery (English Heritage)
DOWNLOAD THE LEAFLET: Venice Provisional Program – vers. 29.8.2012