Staying away could cost you your life

Barely a week goes by now without some reference or news story about a hotel or guest house that has breached is obligations under the Fire Safety Order.

Thankfully not many are about actual fires, although these do occur, and when they do the very fact that guests are strangers to the property, could potentially lead to a disaster. If we then factor into this the requirements of the Disability & Equality ACT 2010, formally the DDA, and how hoteliers should be providing fire safety for those with disabilities, we must begin to ask, which hotels are safe and which are not!

The Penhallow Hotel in Newquay blaze, in August 2007, killed three holidaymakers. This wasBritain’s worst hotel fire for something like 40 years. Another serious fire in October 2010, at the Star & Garter in Linlithgow Scotland, was tackled by 55 fire fighters, before it was extinguished, thankfully no one was hurt. However in both circumstances fire safety had been neglected.

With disabilities such as those associated with physical problems it’s reasonably easy to take adequate precautions, rooms on the ground floor and access ramps etc. but with deafness or hearing impediments not being identified when a guest presents themselves at reception, a certain amount of assumption must be made.

Numbers produced by the RNID (Royal National Institute for the Deaf) show that one in seven of us have a hearing problem, that’s around 9 million people, and that one million of those are profoundly deaf.  Unfortunately most of these hearing problems fall into the same sound range and band of frequencies that are produced by modern electronic sounders.

We can agree that hoteliers face some daunting challenges around fire safety, and let’s not forget the financial problems that many are facing in the current economic climate, something that’s not going to change very quickly. Every room is needed, and taking one, possibly many more off the market to potential guests, for any modifications, could represent a serious problem as well as dilemma.

So how can hoteliers meet their obligation without disrupting their livelihood?

The use of wireless devices is now universally accepted, when reaching for the telephone, no one gives a second thought to using a mobile, most people are happy to use Wi-Fi for highly sensitive data transfer as well handling financial transactions, it’s the same with all technology, and fire and life safety is no exception, providing the same levels of protection as traditionally wired systems, yet saving many hours of expensive labour needed to install cables between rooms throughout a property.

As long as relevant safeguards are built in, WPA Encryption for example with Wi-Fi and of course there’s EN54-25, the latest pan European standard for wireless fire systems which came into force as of the 1st April 2010.

The aim of EN54-25 is to define additional requirements and tests that prove radio fire detection systems and components are comparable to wired systems in every way, and provide exactly the same high level of protection. It would therefore be imperative to ensure that the chosen system is fully EN54-25 compliant with independent 3rd party approvals.

Every wire free device needed, smoke detector and sounder with beacon can be installed in little more 10 minutes each, and rooms can be completed in any order, unlike a cable based system that needs to be routed around the entire property, room by room. Aesthetically, wireless represents another big plus, no wires to hide, or redecoration to consider and that means reduced costs.

Some older properties are complicated by serious hazardous substance issues, such as asbestos. Wireless systems avoid interfering with these substances.

Many hotels have already opted for a wireless fire solution as it allows them to meet their obligations under legislation, as well as ensuring they are providing a safe environment for all their guests, all of which they want to revisit, at a future date.

Reliability, and resilience to false alarms, is also a highly desirable attribute, as guests do not want to be evacuated into a car park at 3.00 in the morning because someone else has had a late shower, it must only operate in a fire situation to ensure confidence and trust. Wireless systems are no less reliable than wired systems; they simple avoid the upheaval and inconvenience normally associated with wiring a property, as part of a fire system installation.

Many of the nation’s much-loved and well known properties have in point of fact already been using wireless fire systems for a number of years; this underlines the reliability, as well as the confidence in the technology.