Fire safety should be a major influence on how hotels are designed

  • 25 Jul 2014

Whether the site in question is a five-star establishment or a basic B&B, every single hotel is categorised as a high risk building. This is because a hotel is unique, with members of the public using the facility 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In addition, as its purpose is to provide sleeping accommodation, it means you have vulnerable people to protect and, as such, it is a building requiring the highest levels of fire safety.

Firstly, it is important that potential fire hazards and risks are identified and, wherever possible, removed. An holistic approach to fire safety is important and it is advisable, in the case of a new build hotel, to have this addressed at the earliest possible stages in the design process. This helps to ensure that the person responsible for selecting the fire detection and alarm system can approach the process from a well-informed standpoint.

The next logical step is to consider the people using the facility and those who are deemed particularly at risk. When a fire occurs and an alarm sounds, it is imperative that staff, visitors and users of the hotel are alerted and evacuated and this has to be an inclusive approach.

Worryingly, the majority of hotels in the UK do not cater for the needs of hearing impaired guests. Given that in the UK, there are an estimated 10 million people with some form of hearing impairment and approximately 2 million people living with a level of sight loss – the probability of having guests or staff with some form of visual or hearing impairment is high. The fact that their specific needs when it comes to fire safety are not fully understood is concerning.

Anyone looking for guidance should refer to the engineering code of practice BS 5839 Part 1, the Code of Practice for the Design, Installation, Commissioning and Maintenance of Fire Detection Systems in Buildings

All hotels require a fire detection system which provides the highest standard of protection of life; with fire detectors installed in all rooms and all areas of the building.

Anyone looking for guidance should refer to the engineering code of practice BS 5839 Part 1, the Code of Practice for the Design, Installation, Commissioning and Maintenance of Fire Detection Systems in Buildings. This contains recommendations to suit the needs of the building and, under the code, hotels would be classified as requiring an L3 category of cover as an absolute minimum. It is advisable to give serious consideration to an L1 category, especially when faced with larger hotels, which might represent a more complex level of risk. This means a system that caters for the detection of a fire, initiates an alarm and provides sufficient time for all occupants of the building to escape. 

When it comes to designing the system, today’s hotel establishments should be protected with addressable systems based on digital technology.

We are seeing digital technology being adapted to create even more sophisticated systems. For example, Generation 6 Detection Technology provides improved functionality, quicker installation times and efficient programming. There is also a significant advantage for the end user when it comes to long term savings due to a superb detector lifespan between service changes.

In addition, Generation 6 Detection Technology can make it easier for hotel facilities to upgrade fire detection and alarm systems, as digital systems can operate over many cable types. This means existing cables can often be re-used making installation easier. 

Today there is a selection of fire detection and alarm systems that utilise the benefits of Generation 6 Detection Technology and, when it comes to selection, hotels should be protected with a combination of different products.

Intelligent fire alarm detection devices which combine optical smoke, carbon monoxide and heat detectors in one unit are highly recommended. These types of detectors significantly reduce the chance of a false alarm as they will only sound if the relationship values between each medium confirm the event as a real fire.

Furthermore, there needs to be the inclusion of visual indicators, such as beacons, to alert hearing impaired persons. When these are incorporated it is important that, at the design stages, they are positioned in guest bedrooms at eye level as well as in the bathroom. It is also critical to include tactile devices, such as vibrating pillows, should a fire occur in the middle of the night when guests are asleep. In order to contain project costs, only a percentage of the total number of hotel rooms will require an enhanced fire safety solution. 

By taking an inclusive approach such as this, hotels are meeting their duty of care to the hearing impaired and ensuring compliance with Building Regulations and The Equality Act 2010.

Finally, for all guests, it must be taken into account that they are in an unfamiliar location and, in an emergency, it is easy to become disorientated when looking for the nearest fire exit. Here, voice alarm systems and voice sounders can really help to avoid confusion and facilitate a safe and timely evacuation.

Fire safety is at its best when it has been addressed right from the outset. It should never be a mere afterthought but placed high on the agenda when it comes to the design of the building and its fire detection and alarm system. It is imperative that all hotel facilities are protected with a well designed, installed and regularly maintained system and one that is fit for all of its occupants.

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