hotel fire safety
111We’re now in peak holiday season and it’s a busy time if you own a business that provides any kind of guest accommodation. As an accommodation owner or manager you’ll have a lot on your plate right now but one priority that needs to consistently stay at the top of your to-do list is fire safety. No one wants a fire to break out anywhere or at any time but given the additional risks created by fire taking hold while people are asleep, it’s essential you do all you can to keep everyone safe. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (for England and Wales) and the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and associated Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 are the major pieces of fire safety legislation setting out the obligations of the ‘responsible person’ to make sure their environment’s as safe as possible. As the responsible person you must conduct a fire risk assessment of your accommodation to identify all the hazards and risks and then put steps in place to remove or reduce them. There are 5 key steps to take when conducting a fire risk assessment. Depending on the size of your accommodation, you may need to consider dividing it into notional sections (like bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, storage areas and so on) to keep the assessment manageable.
  1. Identify the fire hazards
What are the potential sources of ignition and fuel? Possible ignition sources include any kind of electrical appliance, kitchen equipment or discarded smoking materials like a cigarette end. Fuel could be anything which would burn (like bedding, curtains and furniture). Store rooms where bedding, towels, flammable materials and cleaning equipment are kept can present a significant risk too.
  1. Decide who might be harmed and how
Pay particular attention to those more vulnerable to risk like children, the elderly and anyone with a disability.
  1. Evaluate the risks, decide on the precautions and implement them
Once you know the hazards and who’s at risk from them, you must evaluate the likelihood of the risk of fire occurring. Then work out how to keep people safe by putting steps in place to remove or reduce these risks as far as you can. Consider what fire safety equipment you can use. What fire detection and warning methods do you have in place? Could you use an automatic fire detection system? Are the detectors located correctly and can you hear the alarm in each bedroom? Will the alarm be loud enough to wake someone who’s sleeping? Would everyone - guests and staff - be able to find their way out in an emergency? Escape routes must always be free of obstructions, clearly signed and sufficiently illuminated by emergency lighting so people can see their way out. That’s vital in any building but imagine trying to escape unfamiliar surroundings during the night when you’ve suddenly been woken by a fire alarm. You must also install appropriate fire-fighting equipment like fire extinguishers and remember your staff will need to be trained in their safe use too. Have a clear emergency evacuation plan that everyone knows about (via staff training and signs and notices for guests and visitors), practice fire drills regularly and appoint someone who’ll be responsible for calling the emergency services. And keep in mind you’ll need to continuously check all fire safety equipment and appliances are in good working order by regularly testing and maintaining them.
  1. Record your significant findings
If you employ five or more people as part of your accommodation business, you must record all the significant findings from the assessment as well as what’s been done to remove or reduce the fire risk. But it’s not a bad idea to record this information anyway, even if you don’t employ that many people. Make a note of how you plan to deal with any risks that can’t be removed. Put together a clear timeframe to carry out all the necessary fire safety improvements and any training that’s required. And use clearly positioned notices and signs to inform people, including guests, about fire safety.
  1. Review your assessment and update if necessary
Constantly review your fire risk assessment. It is not a once a year activity! If you make any changes to the sleeping accommodation, revisit the assessment.  Record the results of fire drills and consider whether any changes must be made if things didn’t go as expected.  And it hopefully goes without saying that if there’s been or almost been a fire in your accommodation, review your plan urgently. Are you responsible for other kinds of sleeping accommodation? Of course, most of the advice in this article doesn’t only apply to holiday accommodation. It’s valid for all kinds of sleeping accommodation premises. This document is a useful source of information about protecting your guests and employees; keep in mind that more than one piece of fire safety legislation and/or fire safety guidance can apply to individual premises depending on the specific nature of the building and business. Need some further advice? Then get in touch with the Jackson Fire and Security team here.