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J. Andrew Wilson
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Assessing Fire Risks and Steps Toward Mitigation

J. Andrew Wilson
Associate Director for Fire Protection and Safety
Smithsonian Institution


This meeting's theme centers on strategies for emergency preparedness, response and salvage. No one should disagree that these important topics need to be included as part of any long range preservation plan. The focus of this paper, however, is to emphasize prevention measures that should be followed to avoid one of the most prevalent threats facing all cultural institutions - FIRE. Cultural institutions are just as susceptible, if not more so, to the wide variety of common ignition sources that are responsible for most fires elsewhere. The most important factor in preventing a fire loss is through the maintenance of a good fire prevention program. The program must be based on a high standard of housekeeping, orderliness, maintenance of equipment, and continuous staff training and awareness in both recognizing and eliminating fire hazards (ignition and fuel sources). The fire program (policy) also needs to be in writing and updated periodically. Management and staff responsibilities need to be defined, and fire prevention procedures established.


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