A fire in any building can be a frightening, and potentially life-threatening event. In hotels, that threat takes on even more significance, with the number of people endangered and at risk. Often hotel fires occur at night, with many guests disoriented and confused, making safe evacuation more difficult. Circumstances like this require a well communicated and sign-posted fire and evacuation plan.
Here are the essential things any hotel, or guest-house owner and manager MUST be aware of in regard to safety and legal compliance:
Complete a fire risk assessment
The first, and most important component of compliance! All hotels, regardless of size, MUST complete a Fire Risk Assessment. Regular checks must be made all around the building to ensure that:
• Fire doors are installed in all the relevant and appropriate places, and that they are fully functional and not damaged in any way.
• Fire Doors in hotels must be kept closed at all times and NEVER wedged, or propped, open!
• Any damaged doors, or components of, are immediately reported and replaced like-for-like.
• Any hazards, hindrances or blockages, to identified escape routes are removed.
• Risk assessments should be ongoing – this is not a ‘once-a-year, tick-box’ exercise!
Fully training staff can identify risks
Fully trained and ‘fire-aware staff’ are vitally important to ensure hotel fire safety. All hotel employees need to be able to identify fire risks and know who to report them to, as well as knowing all escape routes and the fire emergency procedures. Spread the training throughout the year and ensure any new staff have this fire safety awareness as early as possible, as part of their induction training. This includes all aspects such as evacuation drills, how to operate the fire extinguishers and correct use of the fire blankets.
Establish and fire plan and clear evacuation routes
You MUST establish, and inform all staff of, a formal fire plan. Evacuation routes in case of emergency must be clearly displayed – specifically be aware of the following potential hazards.
• Fire doors wedged open
• Corridors cluttered with furniture and such
• Inaccessible stairwells
• Confusing signage
If any of these situations are present then the health and safety of both guests and staff can be severely compromised. Regular checks will ensure these situations do not develop.
The fire safety order – the current law
The Fire Safety Order is the current law – it states that there should be one nominated “responsible person” in charge of compliance for the building. This is often the owner or manager of the hotel. This “responsible person” can, if they wish, appoint a “competent person” to receive the fire training and ensure daily compliance with the regulations.
Common compliance breaches
The most common breaches of compliance recorded include:
• Ill-fitting doors in frames
• Damaged fire doors
• Fire and intumescent or smoke seals in poor condition
• Fire doors wedged open
A hotel fire can have terrible, traumatic consequences if preventative measures aren’t installed and maintained. Fines, closure and loss of reputation can have severe financial and corporate consequences – but can also end in the tragic and needless loss of life!
Compliance doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated – familiarise yourself with the mandatory requirements and carry out the recommended tests and checks! Consult the identified experts if in doubt over any aspect of your fire safety or responsibilities.