22 January 2016

Salvage Training Day at East Riddlesden Hall

It was hard to miss the news coverage of the fire at Clandon in April, last year. It was a shocking event that was particularly poignant for those of us with a personal involvement in the heritage sector. Times like these make us especially aware that an event such as this could potentially happen at any one of our properties.

National Trust staff work with the fire brigade to retrieve precious historical items.

A week after the fire at Clandon. Members of the fire crew carry a gilded frame away from the ruins.

All National Trust properties have procedures in place to help them deal with the aftermath of emergencies such as fire and flood. An essential part of emergency preparedness is staff training, and I was lucky enough to be able to attend a salvage course at East Riddlesden Hall earlier this month. The day included a full-on salvage training exercise which involved the local fire brigade! National Trust staff from across the country came together to learn about the best practice for dealing with an emergency.

Throughout the day we were briefed on planning procedures and took part in salvage workshops to prepare us for the salvage exercise in the afternoon; these included how to give first-aid treatment to water-damaged historical items. For the exercise, we were split into two main teams: the Salvage Team and the Recovery Team. Once the fire brigade had given the go-ahead, the Salvage Team were suited and booted to enter the building to salvage historic items. I was part of the Recovery Team, whose job it was to receive the items from the Salvage Team and administer first-aid treatment to the water-damaged objects in the designated ‘safe area’. Of course the items being salvaged in the exercise weren’t part of East Riddlesden’s historic collection, so a water-logged copy of Bridget Jones’ Diary was one of the items we had to treat! This item went into our make-shift wind tunnel which we had created using upturned tables, polythene sheeting and a couple of fans.

The fire engine outside East Riddlesden Hall at the end of day.

Once the exercise had ended we met with the fire brigade to review how the task had gone. Overall, everyone was very pleased with how we had coped with the situation. Taking part in a practical exercise helps to simulate what a real emergency situation would be like and prompts us to consider the finer details needed to help us prepare for them. The day helped me acquire new skills, but I just hope I never have to use them! So I will sign off now, whilst touching all available items made of wood…

Roisin, Assistant House Steward, Hill Top & Beatrix Potter Gallery