Historic Underground Premises: how with Fire Safety of Visitors?


In the International Conference on Safety Issues of Rescue Operations in Underground Structures, held in Rome (Italy) on March 3rd, 2011, the argument of visitors’s safety of  secret wartime tunnels in Dover  has been discussed.

The network of tunnels within the White Cliffs below Dover Castle were used as barracks for soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars. In the Second World War, it became a headquarters and hospital. Subsequently, during the Cold War, it was the subject of works to allow it to carry out government functions in the event of a nuclear attack. Currently, the castle houses a collection of objects that illustrate its history.

Map of Dover Castle Tunnel’s (From Steve Emery – Dover Castle and Tunnels – Rome, 3 March,2011 – 2° Convegno Internazionale sulle Tecnologie per il Soccorso negli Ambienti Sotterranei

The presentation, made by Mr Steve Emery (Fire Safety Adviser for English Heritage) has focused the attention on how fire safety engineering can be used to improve safety in historical buildings. In particular, the premise are underground. The first tunnels under Dover Castle were constructed in the Middle Ages to provide a protected line of communication for the soldiers. During the Napoleonic Wars, this system of tunnels was expanded to fortify the Castle. Seven tunnels were dug as barracks for the soldiers and officers. These were capable of accommodating up to 2,000 troops.

In May 1940 the tunnels became the nerve centre for ‘Operation Dynamo’ – the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and French troops from Dunkirk’s beaches. In the Cold War the tunnels were further expanded to form a Regional Centre of Government in the event of nuclear war.

The presentation, taken from the Conference proceedings, shows how fire simulations have guided in developing a correct safety management for visitors:


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