The LWF Blog

Facilities Management & Fire Safety – Insurers & Property Protection – Part 4

January 17, 2019 12:31 pm

In LWFs blog series for those who work in Facilities Management, or who have an interest in or responsibility for fire safety, we have been looking at property protection and the insurer. In part 3, we began to look at how fire safety standards came to be and found that, surprisingly, it had its origins in insurance and property protection. In part 4 we will continue looking at the role of insurance in fire risk assessment, fire safety and fire precautions as we know them today.


In 1666, the Great Fire of London caused the destruction of 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, St Paul’s Cathedral, and most of the buildings of the City authorities. It is estimated to have destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the City’s 80,000 inhabitants. Famously reported is the fact that it only resulted in 6 deaths, however this is highly unlikely, and the real death toll will have been a great deal higher. In the 1600s, the deaths of lower and middle-class victims were not recorded and those would have been the great majority of people who were affected by the fire.


A disaster of this size meant that a great deal more attention was paid to fire precautions and property protection in order to develop a co-ordinated method of fighting fires and fire insurance. The Fire Office, which is classed as the very first fire insurer, was established in 1680. Over time, the scope for insurance grew and there were further insurers established.


From the mid-18th century through to around 1840, the Industrial Revolution saw a change in production methods from hand-crafting to machine power, steam power and the factory system. With it came an increased need of fire insurance as factory owners invested significant sums in their properties to increase production and wished to protect it from potential loss due to fire. In response to the increased demand, insurance companies came up with a simple early version of a fire risk assessment. Each establishment or ‘risk’ was divided into a category – common risk, hazardous risk, extra hazardous risk.


As manufacturing processes became more complex, a similarly complex rating system came into effect called tariffs. This was, effectively, a form of quantitative fire risk assessment and meant that the insurance premium charged was in line with the level of potential risk.


In part 5 of this series, LWF will continue looking at the history of fire insurance and how they set up their own fire brigades. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings. 


While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.


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