JOHNSTON, R.I., USA—Numerous libraries, museums, palaces and cathedrals have recently gone up in flames while lacking common fire protection mechanisms, which are often dismissed out of concern for architectural authenticity and potential water damage, according to a new white paper from FM Global, one of the world’s largest commercial property insurers.

The Notre Dame Cathedral fire in Paris was only the most recent example.

The white paper, 'It’s Time to Protect Our Heritage and Stop Burning It,' cites many examples of architectural masterpieces containing irreplaceable cultural artifacts destroyed in fires around the world. These catastrophes typically struck older buildings jeopardized by combustible structures, voids that foster the spread of flames, and the absence of automatic sprinklers.

“These fires will continue unless there is a commitment to something quite possible, but very different,” the white paper says. “It is vital that we open our thinking to the means by which we can protect such buildings and retain their character, but limit the potential significant damage from such fire events.”

The paper calls for prudent fire detection technology, better access for firefighters, ample water sources, and automatic sprinklers. Despite the fear of damage to rare artifacts from unintended sprinkler activation, data shows that fire loss has been far more expensive than loss from sprinkler leakage.

“The enviable track record of fire sprinklers over their 150-year history shows they are worthy of further consideration for protecting buildings and their contents from fire,” the paper says. “An accidental release of water may damage an object and remedial work may be required, but fire will destroy, and a building and its contents are likely to be lost forever.”

About FM Global
Established nearly 200 years ago, FM Global is a mutual insurance company whose capital, scientific research capability and engineering expertise are solely dedicated to property risk management and the resilience of its client-owners. These owners, who share the belief that the majority of property loss is preventable, represent many of the world’s largest organizations, including one of every three Fortune 1000 companies. They work with FM Global to better understand the hazards that can impact their business continuity in order to make cost-effective risk management decisions, combining property loss prevention with insurance protection.