Nathan Brew, Health and Safety Technical Manager at NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Ltd provides the following advice to help prevent fires in hotels, as well as some information that could also be included in a Fire Risk Assessment.
1.Check that the FRA discusses the ‘kitchen passive protections’ adequately. This means the quality of the walls, ceilings, fire doors and shutters separating the kitchen from the rest of the building. This is important, as any blaze starting in the kitchen should be contained within the kitchen for as long as possible, if not completely.
2. Consider active fire safety protections, including fire alarm coverage and automatic suppression, the correct fire extinguishers, and ensuring staff are adequately trained to use them. There should also be isolation controls on fuel supplies and automatic suppression systems should be considered – especially as access can be a problem for fire crews – they are very reasonably priced nowadays and could make the difference between having a small fire or a disaster.
3. Washing and drying equipment should be addressed. The FRA should stipulate keeping plugs positioned away from the floor in case of water leakage, and the need to be located within a contained ‘fire resistant’ environment that will stop flames jumping out onto an escape route. Discuss the filter cleaning arrangements on driers, and ensure the full cooling cycle is always used to prevent self-heating. Self-combusting tea towels are a more bizarre phenomenon caused by oils and heat, but one which has seen several of our clients’ businesses suffer serious fire damage and business interruption losses. The FRA should also review the use of automatic suppression on driers (again cheap to do, and some commercial equipment can come with this fitted as standard).
4. Open fires continue to cause problems. Chimneys should be routinely checked or surveyed to ensure that they are structurally sound, well-maintained and able to cope with the demands of modern heating appliances. It should be swept by a professional chimney sweep at least twice a year if it is in use frequently or all year round, and the lining (if there is one) should also be regularly inspected, especially when the main fuel is wood, as tar deposits are highly combustible and corrosive.
5. The appropriate type and numbers of fire extinguishers must be present in the correct places, and must not prop open doors. Staff should be trained on how to use them correctly for the different types of fire they could encounter.
6. Test the fire alarm routinely and ensure all staff know what to do in the event of an alarm activation. Time the escapes, share results and follow up on problems and delays. Check the decibel outputs on fire alarm sounders in sleeping rooms, and emergency lighting. The FRA should stipulate who, when and how all are tested. Walk the fire escape routes both in the day and night, and ensure they’re sensible, clear and as short as possible, clearing any items that could fuel a fire or impede escape.
7. Staff should be aware of their role in the event of a fire, particularly the procedures which should be followed at night-time when the number of available staff is limited. Work on the basis that many guests may be a little worse for wear overnight after visiting the bar, and plan evacuations accordingly. Ensure building floor plans are available for the Fire and Rescue Service and ensure all staff know where the nearest hydrant is located.
8. The fire alarm panel should be accompanied by a zone plan (unless the fire alarm panel has a display which shows the area in which there has been an activation). This is helpful for the Fire Service and staffing teams in identifying where there might be a problem and where the initial emergency response should be focussed.
9. Consider whether storage solutions are suitable. For instance, is the boiler room the best place to store the ‘back up mattresses’, spare cooking oil and those portable gas heaters for emergency use? If it’s not flagged it up, then the FRA needs a closer check for adequacy.