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The Fire Safety Order (FSO) is the current law in England and Wales. This states that one ‘responsible person’ (usually the owner or manager) is in charge of compliance. This ‘responsible person’ can nominate a ‘competent person’ to receive the fire training and ensure day-to-day compliance with regulations if they prefer.

All hotels, whatever the size, must do a fire risk assessment. All hazards must be reduced as much as practically possible.

Staff training is vital to ensure hotel fire safety. All employees need to be able to identify and report fire risks, as well as knowing all escape routes, and what to do in an emergency.

Risk assessment tips

  • Fire risk assessment should be ongoing. All risks must be noted and dealt with as soon as possible, rather than a ‘tick-box’ exercise carried out once a year.
  • Regular checks of the building need to be made to ensure that fire doors are not damaged in any way. Fire doors must be kept closed and not wedged open. Hazards, such as frayed wiring or blocked escape routes, must be removed.
  • Try to spread out fire training across the year. This includes evacuation drills, how to use a fire blanket, fire extinguisher training and how to change the lint filters in tumble dryers.
  • Make sure that everyone who comes into contact with the building, including agency staff, builders, cleaners and gardeners, is also trained in fire risks.

Still confused about fire risk assessments? Click here for our quick and handy guide.

Common breaches

Fire safety experts checked a group of 17 hotels in Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham and Manchester. They found issues which breached fire regulations in almost every one. What were the most common things they encountered?

  • Ill-fitting doors in frames
  • Damaged fire doors
  • Fire and smoke seals in poor condition
  • Fire doors wedged open

Means of escape

The big problem with fire safety in hotels is what fire nerds call the means of escape.

  • Corridors become full of smoke because fire doors are wedged open
  • Corridors are too narrow because they are cluttered with stored furniture
  • Stairwells inaccessible because of a fire door rendered useless with a door wedge
  • Confusing signs
  • Guests in hotels are notorious in fire safety circles; when a fire starts, they are likely to have “had a few” making them harder to evacuate from the building
  • Would you want to respond to a fire alarm in your pyjamas (or even out of your pyjamas?)
  • Hotels are unfamiliar to their guests, so escape becomes a dangerous adventure.

Basil Fawlty’s fire alarm experience was typical.


Quick tips to ensure your hotel is fire safe

Don’t wedge open fire doors.

Ensure escape routes are not blocked and kept clear.

Keep fire doors in good condition. Locking this damaged door won’t stop those gaps allowing smoke and fire to rage through. This fire door is completely useless.

A fire has traumatic consequences if preventative measures aren’t in place. Fines, closure and loss of reputation can follow a fire, as well as the risk of someone dying.

What are the penalties?

In England and Wales, a breach of fire regulations used to result in a fine of up to £5,000 in the Magistrates’ courts unlike the Crown Court where the penalty was an unlimited fine and/or prison.

Now, the penalty in the Magistrates’ Court is an unlimited fine and the person responsible for fire safety will be prosecuted as an individual, not as a company. This means that in future, less cases need to go to the Crown Court and fines can increase, especially if you have a significant turnover. On top of this, any enforcement action is published online for everyone to see.

Here are some of the heftiest recorded fines that the UK hotel industry has seen.

5. White Swan Hotel, Arundel, 2007
When a fire broke out at the White Swan Hotel, 10 guests were left trapped in their bedrooms. The guests were rescued, but subsequent investigations found a list of serious fire safety breaches.

  • Fire doors were wedged open
  • Fire alarms weren’t tested correctly
  • Staff did not have adequate fire safety training
  • Fire alarm panel was switched to ‘silent’ mode.
  • No suitable emergency plan in case of a fire.

4. Tantons Hotel, Bideford, 2011
Tantons Hotel was ordered to pay £40,000 in fines and after being condemned for breaching fire safety regulations. 55 guests narrowly escaped serious injury or death after a fire broke out. At 4am:

  • The fire alarm failed
  • A guest was sent back to their room when fire was spreading through the building and
  • A fire exit was blocked by cans of cooking oil
  • An elderly guest was fearful for her life when she was trapped between a fire exit which failed to open and another door that had no handle. The judge commented that the hotel was a ‘death trap.’

3. The Belfry Hotel, Cheshire, 2008
Firefighters carried out a routine visit to this luxury hotel and discovered their inadequate safety precautions were putting their guests at serious risk. They found:

  • No working fire alarms
  • Faulty smoke detectors
  • Poor fire exits
  • Lack of fire safety training for staff.
  • The hotel was immediately closed but re-opened after the issues were resolved and the required equipment fitted.

2. The Radnor Hotel, London, 2015
The former owner of The Radnor Hotel was fined £200,000 — the biggest ever fine from the London Fire Brigade, after a routine inspection found several serious fire safety breaches.

  • Missing fire doors
  • No fire risk assessment
  • Inadequate fire detection systems and emergency lighting
  • Fire doors were tied open using string, extension cords and an extinguisher used as a wedge
  • The former owner was also given a four month prison sentence.

1. The Chumleigh Lodge Hotel, London, 2012
The offences date back to 2008. The fire brigade were called when a fire spread rapidly from a first floor bedroom to the second floor. Three people escaped. After the fire, fire inspectors found 12 offences including:

  • Obstructed fire escape routes
  • No smoke alarms
  • Defective fire doors
  • Unsuitable fire risk assessment and no staff training
  • The case was a landmark hearing, as it was the first time a jury convicted a defendant rather than a judge or magistrate.

A fire has traumatic consequences if preventative measures aren’t in place. Fines, closure and loss of reputation can follow a fire, as well as the risk of someone dying.

Compliance doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult for you, we can help, with solutions that make compliance easy.

Sources. FDIS, FIA, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/do-you-have-paying-guests

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