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Control measure

Assess the building for signs of collapse

Control measure knowledge

An appropriate understanding of building design and construction materials and the size, severity and effects of the fire and firefighting activities, both internally and externally, will help identify and assess signs of partial or structural collapse.  

Factors that may affect the structural integrity of a building include: 

  • The age, design and condition of the building 
  • Structural materials and construction methods 
  • Unusual designs such as air-supported structures 
  • Existence of fire protection – active and passive 
  • Substandard or unregulated construction or modification 
  • Fire loading to structural elements 
  • Fire conditions on arrival; size, severity, location and number of fire-breached compartments 
  • Backdraught, flashover or explosions 
  • Engineered timber and connections, such as truss joists and nail plates 
  • Applied load increase as a result of fire water loading 
  • Cutting structural elements for firefighting operations 
  • Severe weather conditions, such as flooding, heavy snow or high winds 

Potential signs of collapse may include the following: 

  • Cracks in walls 
  • Sagging floors or floors deflecting from wall 
  • Displaced columns 
  • Cracking or dropping arches 
  • Bulging walls 
  • Buckling columns or beams 
  • Water or smoke that pushes through what appears to be a solid masonry wall 
  • Unusual noises coming from the building structure 

For more information see hazards: 

  • Impact of fire or firefighting on structural elements or structural frames  
  • Impact of fire or firefighting on structural materials 

Preventative action can minimise the potential impact of a fire on the inherent structural stability of a building. This may include cutting away and opening up to expose concealed areas, in order to inspect structural elements and check if they have been affected by fire. 

Specialist advice may be required from local authority building control teams, structural engineers or urban search and rescue tactical advisers. 

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Ensure information about buildings that may be vulnerable to structural collapse is recorded and communicated to relevant personnel

  • Make arrangements with other agencies to establish the type and level of response they can provide if specialist advice is required 

  • Ensure personnel are aware of the specialist advice available  

  • Gather relevant information and intelligence about previous fire-related incidents in buildings and make it available to personnel 

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Assess and continuously monitor the building for signs of collapse 

  • Consider appointing safety officers to monitor the building for signs of collapse 

  • Consider cutting away and opening up to expose concealed areas in order to inspect the integrity of structural elements 

  • Consider the effects of the fire’s duration and intensity and firefighting activity on structural elements or structural frames 

  • Consider the effects of the fire’s duration and intensity and firefighting activity on structural materials 

  • Refer to information and intelligence about previous fire-related incidents in the building 

  • Consider requesting specialist advice when assessing the structural integrity of the building 

  • Review the tactical plan and communicate changes following identification of partial or structural collapse