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Fire Safety, a burning Issue for hoteliers

Keystep Solutions’ Andrew Evans investigates compliance with fire safety and why regulations are likely to increase

You might be shocked to learn that there have been eight major hotel fires in the UK over the last 12 months, including the fatal fire at the Perth Hotel.

There are over 45,000 hotels in the UK and fire safety should be of paramount importance, not least because non-compliance with legislation can result in loss of life, loss of revenue, fines and imprisonment. The impact of fire can be catastrophic: most hotels that have a severe fire cease to trade within six months of the fire.

Being responsible for a hotel, your primary concern is that your guests enjoy their safe stay. Fire safety in hotels is delicate: you have to protect various areas with different environmental conditions (guest areas, Kitchens, staff areas etc.) You need devices that quickly detect the first sign of fire and lead your guests safely out of the danger zone. At the same time, the fire protection system has to be highly reliable because nothing can be more annoying than a false alarm.

People are particularly vulnerable to the effects of smoke and toxic fire gases when they are asleep. Those doing so in hotel bedrooms are especially at risk, as they are probably not very familiar with the premises and associated escape routes. They may be tired after travelling for many hours, they may be deeply asleep having gone to bed late or having consumed alcohol – all of which might leave them in a disorientated state when first awakened by the sound of a fire alarm.

People’s vulnerability to fires in hotels was recognised in the UK after the Rose and Crown hotel fire in Saffron Walden in 1969, which resulted in 11 deaths. This led to hotels and boarding houses being the first premises to be designated as requiring a fire certificate under the Fire Precautions Act 1971.

From small B&Bs to large hotels, the main legal responsibilities are the same. Hotel owners and managers need to be aware of the Fire Safety Order (FSO); the current law in England and Wales. The FSO nominates one individual as the ‘Responsible Person’ for a building – generally deemed to be the owner, occupier or employer.

Quite often a hotel manager can be the designated the Responsible Person without knowing it and without any fire safety knowledge or training. However, just because they are listed as the Responsible Person doesn’t mean they need to know everything about fire safety; someone else can be nominated to be a ‘Competent Person’ for the premises and receive training accordingly.

The ‘Responsible Person’ has a duty to fulfil the requirements of the FSO. Those requirements all stem from having a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. The hotel manager will need to prove that they have reduced fire risk as far as is reasonably practical and show that they have taken precautions to protect its guests and employees.

Employees need to be made fully aware of the hotel evacuation strategy in order to be able to put this into practice in the event of a fire alarm sounding. The better trained your staff are, the calmer they are likely to be in the event of a fire, which can help save lives.

Do You Comply?

Non-compliance with the FSO can have serious consequences, as one hotel owner discovered at his cost. In May 2014, Manjit Takhar, owner of the Bescot Hotel in Walsall, was jailed for 12 months for breaching fire safety regulations. An investigation into the premises revealed the fire exit on the first floor had been blocked by mattresses, in addition the fire alarms were deemed to be faulty. Obstructions were also discovered on the landing and the emergency lighting was inadequate.

The Derby Telegraph reported how a routine Fire Safety Audit of the International Hotel in Derby revealed a series of fire safety lapses, which were repeatedly ignored after several visits and warnings. The lease holder and operator pleaded guilty to four breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and was sentenced to six months in prison, a £40,000 fine and £20,000 in costs.

The Future of fire regulations

Fire safety has never been under so much scrutiny after so many high-profile fires in large buildings from the Grenfell tragedy to the fire at the Glasgow Arts School. It is only a question of when the fire regulations will be overhauled, not if! At the moment only new builds or refurbishments need to comply with all the current regulations. It is likely older hotels will have to comply with any current regulations and that fire inspections will be more frequent and stringent.

The current regulations and standards in place to ensure the effectiveness of fire doors fall short of where they need to be and as a consequence, lives are potentially put at risk. It is likely legislation will to introduced to enforce a minimum six or 12 monthly inspections of all fire doors in multi-occupancy properties with evidence submitted to an appropriate authority that inspection and continual maintenance has been completed by a qualified independent person.

All our Opendoor Electronic RFID Locks pass a stringent fire safety test in a laboratory where a door with one of locks fitted is burnt to destruction. No matter who you use for your door locking system in your hotel make sure you have locks that have passed EN 1634-1:2014 - Fire resistance & smoke control for a minimum of 30/60 minutes. We also fit a fire Intumescent Fire Protection Kit around our locks, this is something you should also check with your lock supplier especially for new installations. As part of our support service we offer a full audit of fire doors and can help and advise on any remedial works that may be required.

Fires are a hotelier’s worst nightmare. They cost lives. They damage property, injure employees and put people out of business. If the worst should happen right now, how confident are you that your evacuation plan and fire safety equipment would perform? If you have any doubts you should take immediate action.

Andrew Evans is the Chief Executive Office of Keystep Solutions a leading supplier of doors access systems for hospitality. He has written several white papers on fire safety and door locking systems in the hospitality environment. He can be contacted by email at if you would like any more information.


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