Mark Gowans, VP and General Manager, Wormald Australia , puts the spotlight on hotel fire safety protection. Hotels run the risk of fire every day, whether it be an overlooked pan in the kitchen, faulty wiring or guest-attributed damage. As a result, it is vital that hotels are equipped with a comprehensive fire management system enabling quick and efficient action in the event of a fire.
While a well-managed and effective response to a fire can enhance a hotel’s reputation, an ill-prepared reaction could take years to recover from. State and Territory regulations, building codes and occupational health and safety requirements dictate the fire protection obligations for hotels.
Associated fire protection codes and standards play a crucial role in determining the necessary fire protection solutions that hotels should consider to meet their life-safety obligations. The choice of fire equipment and fire suppression systems for hotels is extensive, with solutions ranging from portable fire extinguishers and blankets to comprehensive sprinkler systems and smoke detection panels integrated into a hotel’s control room.
Fire extinguishers, hose reels and blankets offer an effective solution for quickly and easily suppressing small fires. The equipment should be strategically placed throughout the building according to standards and regulations and be easily accessible to staff and guests. Staff should also be properly trained in how to use them.
However, for larger fires that really take hold, these smaller portable products on their own are unlikely to be effective enough and hotels require systems which are specifically designed to combat the different types of fire that can begin in the various areas of the hotel.
With high temperatures consistently being reached in commercial kitchens, this is a prime location for fires to occur. There are a number of different solutions to deal with kitchen fires including water, gaseous and foam extinguishing systems. Wet chemical agents are particularly effective for rapid flame knockdown and are ideal for use on cooking appliances and ductwork.
Their efficiency helps minimise any ‘down-time’, allowing the kitchen to get back up and running quickly, which is vital for a busy hotel. Modern sprinkler systems provide an economical fire suppression solution and can be designed to be unobtrusive so as not to impinge on hotel aesthetics. Ideal for large fire outbreaks, these systems are flexible allowing the size of spray patterns, droplet sizes and flow rates to be specified to meet the establishment’s requirements.
Heat and smoke detectors further enhance a hotel’s portfolio. These are used to pinpoint the exact location of a fire, providing valuable time needed to combat a fire before it has a chance to spread, and minimising damage. Basic detectors will identify general smoke build-up but its the advanced systems that will detect colourless and odourless carbon monoxide gases, which result from small fires and present the most common risk to hotel guests.
To increase response times, heat and smoke detection systems can also be integrated into a hotel’s central control system. Once a detector is activated, central control can begin evaluating the cause and alert staff through a variety of interfaces. This is an invaluable solution for large buildings with multiple storeys, providing an operator with access to view each floor and its associated monitors, keeping track of potential fires.
For effective communication during a fire situation, an Emergency Warning Intercommunication Systems (EWIS) can be integrated into the hotel’s central control system. Speakers and alarms placed on each level of the building can be activated individually or simultaneously, warning guests about a potential situation and managing exit flow from the different storeys. Corridors should be fitted with fire doors to help contain fire and prevent it from spreading. Emergency stairwells should also be installed with exhaust fans to prevent the build up of smoke in the escape routes.
Emergency lights are beneficial for guiding hotel guests to the nearest safe exit in the event of a fire or emergency evacuation situation. Some advanced solutions can additionally be integrated with fire detection, building automation, public address and other control systems to react to the emergency as it unfolds and escort people away to safety.
In addition to fire protection systems, there are further measures that hotels can undertake to optimise fire safety. These include evacuation plans developed with staff and easily conveyed to guests in the event of a fire. Fire protection companies, which offer a full client service, will be able to develop this in conjunction with hotel managers in order to achieve the most effective plan.
Staff training will also go a long way to making a difference in an emergency situation. This can cover a variety of topics such as fire extinguisher training, fire warden training, evacuation procedures, breathing apparatus and managing crowds.
Finally, Australian Fire Standards require that systems are regularly tested to ensure that the equipment is able to perform when required. People need to ensure the company responsible for their fire protection systems carries out regular inspections and tests so that everything is in full working order.