Fire poses a risk in every setting in every industry. However, it’s an even more prominent threat in the hotel industry, given so many people occupy the premises 24 hours a day.
It is a hotelier’s legal duty to protect all staff, guests and visitors to the building by reducing the risk of fire. From small bed and breakfasts to large hotel chains, ensuring safety standards and compliance with regulations is paramount.
Here, we take a look at the vital role fire extinguishers play in a hotel setting and outline the key safety measures required to comply with legislation.
The vital role of a fire extinguisher
The very first ‘fire extinguisher’ is thought to date back to around 200BC, but the first pressurised extinguisher came into being in 1819, invented by Captain George William Manby. This copper container was portable and contained three gallons of potassium carbonate solution. Since then, the need for unique extinguishers to tackle the differing types of fire has resulted in various models entering the market. A hotel is a multi-hazard environment so the selection of the correct type of extinguisher is crucial.
Every effort should be made to ensure fires are prevented and that, if they do occur, the right protective equipment is to hand to ensure a safe evacuation of the building. Fire extinguishers can prove critical in the moment – they’re a first line of defence when a fire breaks out, helping to prevent costly and sometimes devastating damage. However, more importantly, fire extinguishers are provided to help people escape.
There are typically four types of fire any hotel should prepare for. They are classed according to what is burning and the corresponding fire extinguisher has the correct knockdown properties for tackling that particular fire:
- Class A risk areas are those featuring combustible materials, including wood, paper or textiles. Advice is given in BS 5306 – 8 to calculate the number of Class A-rated extinguishers in any given area. Generally, water-based extinguishers, which include foam and water additive types, are specified for this risk.
- Class B fires are those with flammable liquids (petrol or spirits) at their source. Foam, powder or CO2 fire extinguishers are suitable for these areas. Special attention needs to be given for fighting alcohol fires, as this requires an alcohol-resistant foam additive.
- Class C fires have flammable gases at their source (propane, butane for example). Powder extinguishers should be installed in these areas. However, isolation of the gas is the best and most effective way to extinguish these fires.
- Class F fires involve cooking oils and are often started by deep-fat fryers. MultiCHEM and wet chemical fire extinguishers are designed for use on this type of fire.
It all starts with a fire-risk assessment
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is the main legislation governing fire safety in hotels in England and Wales. The local fire and rescue authority enforces the order in most premises and will carry out inspections and confirm compliance. That means assurance of a thorough fire-risk assessment having taken place and all appropriate measures having been put in place following its findings. The main rules under the order require the ‘responsible person’ (the hotel owner or someone with control of the premises) to remove or reduce the risk from fire as far as is reasonably possible and provide a suitable means of controlling any possible remaining risks. This begins with carrying out a fire-risk assessment, which will include identification of areas and people at risk, removing or reducing that risk and recording all findings and informing all those who need to be aware. Finally, as part of the fire-risk assessment, the responsible person will need to regularly review it.
Fire extinguishers form a vital part of any fire-safety plan – they should be visible and accessible in every area of a hotel. They should be installed in accordance with the guidelines of BS 5306 – 8 with no more than 30 metres between the fire points.
Maintenance and servicing
Installation and correct placement of fire extinguishers is extremely important. However, a hotelier’s responsibility for fire safety where this life-saving equipment is concerned doesn’t end there. Regular inspection and maintenance of fire extinguishers is mandatory to ensure they are the correct extinguisher for the risk, remain effective and work as expected in the event of a fire. Fire extinguisher servicing should be carried out annually by a competent person in accordance with BS 5306-3: 2017. It’s a hotelier’s responsibility to arrange this with a qualified, competent organisation. The competent technician will ensure the equipment is fit for purpose and will carry out the service to comply with the sequence of instructions given in BS 5306 – 3 Annex B. The importance of fire-extinguisher maintenance, particularly in a hotel setting, should never be underestimated.
Fire safety in hotels should be treated with the utmost importance. Fire-safety equipment should work alongside meticulously planned escape routes and evacuation procedures, as well as thorough staff training. Hoteliers have an obligation to comply with legislation and the best practice outlined in the British Standards. They must communicate fire-safety information to guests on check-in in preparation for the worst – the breakout of fire.
For more information, go to www.checkfire.co.uk