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On the 10th of October 2016, the Palace Museum celebrated the 91st anniversary of her establishment as a public institution. As part of the Museum's ongoing campaign “Safe Museum, Secure Palace” (Ping’an Gugong), firefighters were invited to hold live drills and demonstrations in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian), and construction workers demolished modern prefabricated structures within the Forbidden City.
Demolitions of Prefabricated Structures
From the inception of the “Safe Museum, Secure Palace” (Ping’an Gugong) campaign in 2013, the Museum administration has actively sought to improve safety standards in and around the Forbidden City. Due to a shortage of usable space within the ancient palatial complex, the Museum formerly used modern prefabricated structures for offices, reception lounges, laboratories, collection storage, dining halls, and other functions. In order to reduce potential environmental hazards and improve the visual aesthetics of the ancient palace, fifty-five prefabricated structures had been demolished to open up a total area of 3,040.72 square meters as of November 2015.
This year's demolitions were conducted in the areas around the Gate of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing men), Gate of Tranquil Longevity (Ningshou men), and the Southern Three Abodes (Nan sansuo). Some of the structures demolished were used for commercial purposes, while others were previously used as office space. The demolition of these buildings opens up additional areas for visitors and removes the unappealing blend of modern and ancient architecture. Officials from the Ministry of Culture, State Administration of Cultural Heritage, Beijing Fire Services, and Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage and various journalists were present at the demolitions. The Museum administration plans to demolish the remaining prefabricated and temporary structures within the Forbidden City by the middle of 2017.
Drills and Demonstrations by the Fire Services
The Palace Museum's director, Mr. Shan Jixiang, recounted that since the construction of the Forbidden City in the year 1420 the palace has suffered from approximately a hundred different fires. During these six hundred years of history, fire prevention has been and continues to be of prime importance. The ancient wood structures of the palace are especially vulnerable to fire, so "Extinguish Early, Extinguish Small, Extinguish from the Onset" has been a motivating slogan in addition to other fire prevention procedures and regulations to ensure the protection of the heritage architecture.
At 10:10 on the morning of the 10th of October, a team of emergency personnel began conducting their drills and demonstrations in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe dian). The drill simulated a fire caused by lightning striking the ancient palatial hall. The simulation followed a prearranged script with successive scenarios. First, the Museum's Security Department personnel monitoring the Museum via video surveillance are alerted to the fire and to several trapped individuals; they immediately alert the Fire Services by dialing 119 (emergency number for fires) and organize the evacuation of all visitors from the area. Second, the firefighters and emergency personnel on duty at the Palace Museum rush to the scene and implement initial measures to extinguish the fire. Third, the People's Armed Police Force and other police stationed at the Museum establish a secure perimeter around the threatened area and join the firefighting efforts. Fourth, and finally, the 120 (emergency number for first-aid services) emergency medical services provide emergency treatment and transportation of the injured. The one-hour drill was a collaboration of approximately 500 personnel from the Palace Museum, Beijing Fire Services, the Tian'anmen Fire Authority, People's Armed Police Force of Beijing, and the Palace Museum's onsite police. Director Fei Baoqi of the Tian'anmen area management committee, Vice Bureau-chief Liu Zhengpin of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage, Vice Bureau-chief Li Runhua of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, and Vice Bureau-chief Jiang Yanjie of the Tian'anmen branch of the Public Security Bureau were also present at the day's events. This year's drill was larger in scale than any of the Museum's previous annual fire drills and demonstrations.