hotel fire safety
Fire safety is a massive challenge in the hotel and guest accommodation sector but it’s a priority that must never slip down the list. Every situation where a fire accidentally ignites is obviously dangerous but when you factor in the additional complexity presented by a fire breaking out in premises where most inhabitants are sleeping, it’s clear why hotels are such high risk buildings. In December two hotels were devastated by fire. The Gateway to Wales, in Deeside, North Wales, was more or less completely burnt out but thankfully everyone escaped. The Cameron House
Huge fire damages 90% of lavish 16th century Hambledon House in Surrey
Hotel in Loch Lomond tragically became the scene of a double fatality. Even more recently, there was a fire in Hambledon House, Surrey which resulted in two people being treated in hospital for serious but not life threatening injuries. The early indications are that around 90% of the building has been damaged by the fire. Anyone responsible for fire safety in a hotel will be well aware of the fact that fire risk assessments are absolutely key and will also be familiar with the approach to be taken. Fire hazards need to be carefully and systematically identified - what are the potential sources of ignition and fuel? Who might be harmed and how? This must address all scenarios, including ones where residents are sleeping at the time of a fire starting, and consider the vulnerability of certain residents like children, the elderly and anyone with a disability. What’s the likelihood of the risk of fire occurring? Once all this is known the vital steps of identifying how to remove or reduce those risks must be put in place, and records made of all actions taken. And then review. The review part is critical and it goes beyond having a periodic full formal fire risk assessment at a set point in time. Obviously that must happen. But the spirit of the review mentality also encompasses being of the frame of mind where it’s second nature to be alert to the shifting nature of fire risk. A fire safety mindset
Aftermath of fire at Loch Lomond hotel Cameron House
Some risks will be clearly identifiable and will more or less remain constant and must be planned for accordingly. But what about the little shifts and changes that go on in a hotel environment?  Fire investigators at Cameron House are examining the possibility that the fire initially started in or around the Christmas tree that was located in the hotel’s main reception. It may turn out not to have originated there or it may transpire that there was consideration given to fire risk beforehand. But it should remind us that temporary adaptations of the environment must always be done with fire safety in mind.  Decorations going up, a guest asking to have a fan in their room one night because it’s a warm evening, a supplementary portable heater being used as a one off on the premises; they all seem quite minor instances but taking a few moments to think about fire safety – whether the fan has been PAT tested for example - could turn out to be of fundamental importance. That mindset is really important for effective maintenance too. When it comes to fire safety, the reality is that uneventful is good but unfortunately that can mean once the fire risk assessment’s done, and all the necessary equipment and systems are installed, the maintenance side of fire safety can drift. Not only the more formal maintenance and equipment servicing that needs to happen, but all the seemingly small, unobtrusive, unplanned jobs that need to be taken care of too. The monthly fire extinguisher checks that get put off a few days because it’s a particularly hectic week…the small hole in a ceiling tile that’s not viewed as a big problem as it’s not visible to guests but that becomes a route for a fire to spread through rapidly as compartmentalisation is breached. Staying on top of maintenance doesn’t seem very exciting, and doesn’t always feel like a priority with all the other activities claiming your time. But in the instance of the fire at the Gateway to Wales Hotel, the correctly functioning smoke alarm system was credited with enabling a safe evacuation. Hopefully there will never be a time when you are reliant on the fire systems and equipment in your hotel to save lives. But as these recent hotel fires have shown, there could be. It’s in the hotel’s hands to make sure they have done everything possible to prevent fire breaking out – and to be 100% ready for it if it ever does.