Skip to main content
Palace of Westminster

Security solutions for a World Heritage Site

Blonde woman standing in front of the Westminster building in London.

They were images that went around the world: people standing in line for hours to pay their last respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II. When the head of state died at the age of 96 in September 2022, the Queen’s coffin was laid out for four days in the U.K. Parliament’s Westminster Hall, which was open to the public. Hundreds of thousands of people came, with the lines stretching for miles through central London.

While people were saying goodbye to their Queen, work went on behind the scenes at Westminster Palace around the clock to ensure everyone’s safety. Reece Haughey still remembers it well. As a Protec service engineer, he is part of the team responsible for fire safety at the palace. Over the past six years, the Bosch subsidiary Protec has equipped the entire grounds of Westminster Palace with fire and voice alarm technology.

Being a part of history

“Through my work, I can experience British history up close and be a part of it,” says Haughey. “I was even allowed to pay my respects to the Queen.” He sits in a tiny room in the Palace of Westminster with barely enough room for more than four workstations. In front of him is a screen showing a 3D model of the palace. From here, he can monitor the entire building and locate each of the 12,000 fire alarms. If a problem is reported by way of the ticket system, the service engineers see where the issue is and set off on their mission.

Man sitting in a room in front of a computer screen with an image of the Palace of Westminster.
Reece Haughey has been working at Westminster for half his life. He knows the place inside out.
Portrait of Reece Haughey

Through my work, I can experience British history up close and be a part of it.

Reece Haughey, service engineer at Protec

“When I told my family that I was now working in the Houses of Parliament, they thought it was a joke at first,” the trained electrician recalls. After all, the building is one of the country’s landmarks. Elizabeth Tower, also known as Big Ben, is one of the most famous postcard scenes. “We are very proud to be responsible for developing and updating the life safety solutions for the entire Westminster area,” says Richard Heaton, who is responsible for the project at Protec. “In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, you sometimes forget what an important role the palace plays in the history of the country.”

Blonde woman standing on the steps of Westminster Hall.
Lucy Kolling in the footsteps of great celebrities: in Westminster Hall, people paid their last respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

For Haughey, walking through the magnificent red corridors of the House of Lords (the upper chamber of the British Parliament), riding in the same elevator that is usually reserved for the British monarch, or walking in the footsteps of great politicians in Westminster Hall has become part of everyday life. The 31-year-old has been working here for half his life, having started as a service technician at Westminster at the age of 16. He has been employed by Protec since 2018. “Even though I’m very familiar with the building after 15 years, I still get to know new places on my assignments,” he says. There are more than 1,000 rooms in the palace, so anyone starting out as a service technician here needs a good sense of direction. The many corridors and parts of the building resemble a labyrinth. Lucy Kolling has been part of the Protec team for a year. “As a new associate, I am responsible for the maintenance of all fire alarm systems,” she says. “With 12,000 different detectors installed, the advantage is that I get to know all parts of the building.”

The main building is the size of 16 soccer pitches and has more than 1,100 rooms.

Between World Heritage Site and innovative technology

Five fire detectors in the colors white, red, beige, brown and light brown lie on a white table.
The life safety technology blends unobtrusively into the historic walls thanks to color coordination.

In addition to fire alarms, Protec’s portfolio also includes sprinkler and water mist systems, dry risers, extinguishing systems, and portable fire extinguishers. There is also a voice alarm system comprising a network of 20 control cabinets. In addition, an emergency voice communication system has been installed at specially marked points. In the event of an evacuation, people at these assembly points can communicate with the control center by way of an intercom system and inform the first responders of their location.

The special thing about the technology is that it is invisible. Because the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the parts of the building date from different eras, the life safety technology blends unobtrusively into the historic walls. Kolling demonstrates this using five fire detectors, which she places on the table. They are red, white, and various shades of brown. “At Westminster, we work closely with a heritage team, which checks all our designs and specifies, for example, which colors we have to paint our products so that they integrate harmoniously into the building,” says Steve Blackmore, who heads the Protec team on site.

We are very proud to be responsible for developing and updating the life safety solutions for the entire Westminster area.

Richard Heaton, project lead at Protec

Every day is a new challenge, says Blackmore. In addition to the structural requirements, the ongoing use of the facilities must also be taken into account. Parliamentary sessions sometimes go on late into the night. “If that’s the case, we have to be flexible,” says Kolling. “But my job takes me to places that I would never have got to know in this way, like when I went to Big Ben for an assignment and was able to see the palace from a completely different perspective.” The service engineer experienced her baptism of fire at the end of last year, when King Charles III presided over the opening of parliament for the first time as the new head of state. “Regardless of how long you’ve worked here, moments like this remain unique, and I’m always proud of the great work our team does,” says Blackmore.

View of the Palace of Westminster at dusk from Westminster Bridge.
Protec has equipped the entire grounds of Westminster Palace with fire and voice alarm technology.

About Protec

Protec Fire and Security Group is one of the leading system integrators for security and fire alarm technology in the United Kingdom — the largest market in Europe next to Germany. The company was founded in 1968 and can look back on over 50 years of successful company history. Protec was acquired by Bosch Building Technologies in 2021.

Share this on: