Fire Protection

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This content is excerpted from Preventive Conservation: Collection Storage (2019), Elkin and Norris, eds.

Chapter 12: Fire Protection for Collection Spaces

Jeffrey LaSalle, LaSalle Engineering, Willow Grove, PA
Bryan L. Stemen, Stafford, VA

Protection of museum collections against the threat of fire remains a significant challenge for conservation professionals around the world. Whether caused by human error, malicious intent, faulty equipment, or other sources, even the smallest of fires can be damaging to a collection. Automatic water-based fire suppression systems are still the most recognized and reliable options for protection of collection spaces. Fire detection and alarm systems along with special clean agent suppression systems are essential tools in mitigating the damage potential in a fire event. Other building systems also must be considered in terms of their contribution to comprehensive building and collections fire safety. Commissioning and regular inspection, testing, and maintenance of these systems can help to maintain system reliability over the life of a collections facility. The roles of individuals in building fire safety must also be considered and addressed in terms of fire prevention and emergency response. An array of analytical tools exists to assess risk and to model the growth and the effects of fire in a building. The decision process for which systems to utilize must be guided by a thorough understanding of fire risk and the unique fire safety goals of the individual collections facility.


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