The LWF Blog

Facilities Management & Fire Safety – Insurers & Property Protection – Part 5

January 23, 2019 12:06 pm

In LWF’s blog series for those professionals 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 role of the insurer. In part 4, some of the history that led to property insurance from fire was given and in part 5, we will continue looking at how different the early insurers could be from what we know today.


While the Great Fire of London in 1666 spurred the creation of the first fire insurer – The Fire Office and that led onto other insurers being created, the development of the role of the insurer did not slow over the next few centuries.


By 1682, The Fire Office (later known as the Phoenix Fire Office) offered insurance to companies to protect their property and contents from fire, along with The Fire Office’s own fire brigade. The brigade would be sent out to a fire and the building itself would be indicated with the emblem of the insurance company. The plaque became known as a fire mark.


Other insurance companies continued to establish themselves too and each had their own fire brigade in order to literally protect their investment. The ideal of forming these individual brigades into one coherent fire service occurred in London in 1832, when all the brigades joined together.


Other ways of working together for mutual benefit were established too. Shared information on loss experience and risk classification meant that they could agree insurance rates. Scotland was quite organised in that they held meetings for the Scottish Fire Office Managers from 1829 onwards. Throughout England the co-operation between insurers grew on a piecemeal basis, usually following a local disaster involving fires in warehouses, wharves, docks and cotton mills.


In 1860, the first UK-wide association of insurers was formed and was further formally constituted in 1868 when they became known as the Fire Offices’ Committee (FOC).


In 1861, the Tooley Street fire in London caused a great upheaval to the FOC when losses of over £1 million were incurred – an unimaginable sum in those days. The Offices immediately increased the rates they charged to protect and cover wharves and warehouses and this led to the introduction of a principle that remains in existence today; the rating system from this point was based on assessment of the construction and encouraged more fire-safe buildings and practices with more favourable rates. The reverse was also true and those buildings which posed the greatest risk were penalised with increased insurance premiums.


In part 6 of this series, LWF will continue to look at the history of insurers for property protection against fire. 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.


Share this post