Fire salvage training at Knole

The attics at Knole
Published : 03 Oct 2016 Last update : 16 Mar 2021

How do we prepare for disaster? This week we spent some time working with Kent Fire & Rescue to make sure we'd be able deal with anything that happens.

Understandably, one of the biggest concerns at any house the size and age of Knole is going to be fire and emergency responses. Old buildings such as Knole are incredibly vulnerable to the scourge of catastrophic fire. You only have to look at the sad fate of Clandon to realise how quickly fire can spread even when every precaution has been taken. That is why it’s so important for buildings like Knole and other National Trust properties to always be prepared even if something like this happens.
We’re always thinking about how we’d deal with disaster. Part of this involves training exercises going through what we’d do practically. We have just completely re-written our emergency plan to better handle an emergency at Knole. Things are constantly changing and being improved upon and our new plan reflects a vast improvement on the previous version. We’ve just done one of these exercises with the help of Kent Fire & Rescue. A little element of this is salvage. Going into different areas of the house and saving the most important items from the collection.

We need to be able to communicate to our teams and the Fire Brigade what needs grabbing and where to grab it. In order to do this we simulated a fire and had various teams moving around closed spaces in the house identifying and retrieving ‘important’ objects.
Obviously for an exercise we don’t use the real items so we planted a few fake antiques. Some were particularly fine pieces
We used some replica objects as stand in’s to rescue. These extra special items were hunted down and brought safely out of harms way thanks to the dedication of everyone involved.
Everyone is assigned a role and different individuals will coordinate the work of different teams to make sure everything flows smoothly. Whether it’s salvage, documentation, security or welfare; everyone has a part to play and they’re all essential.

Here a salvage officer hands out instructions on finding individual items and retrieving them from the house. Every item needs to have information on how it is to be carried, where it can be found and how many people are needed. Of course safety if always the top priority so we would only ever act within the guidelines given to use by the Fire Brigade.
Sorting through a house and collection the size of Knole’s can be daunting but we know everyone would do their best. It’s simply a case of being organised and ready. We have a special store of salvage supplies and a team on hand to respond at short notice. Should anything go wrong we know that everyone here at Knole will do their best to save what we can of such a special place.