Wake-up call

28 May 2022

COOKING EQUIPMENT, careless smoking and electrical malfunctions are three of the leading causes of fires in hotels. Aside from the serious threat to life and property posed by genuine fires, Neil Parkin observes why any failure to provide and maintain high-quality fire protection measures can realise other equally dire consequences.

By their very nature, hotels can be complicated sites to protect given that fire and false alarm risks exist in abundance. Busy kitchens and extensive electrical installations, not to mention the necessity for regular repair and maintenance work, all serve to increase the likelihood of fire incidents.

Add to this scenario the presence of an ever-changing population of residents, some of whom may smoke, perhaps be careless around Call Points and detectors or who exhibit varying degrees of mobility and the picture of complexity in such an environment begins to expand still further.

No two hotels are the same, of course. Some are high-rise, purpose-built complexes with hundreds of guest rooms and a host of leisure, retail and dining spaces on site. Others may be sprawling resorts with isolated beachfront villas or a series of remote log cabins. Smaller boutique-style hotels pose different challenges altogether, while further complications arise whenever a given hotel has either been named as a listed building or otherwise located within an historic site.

It's abundantly clear, then, that there’s rarely any scope for a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution here. Nevertheless, there are some basic requirements applicable to all hotel fire protection regimes. On that basis, let’s explore some of them.

False alarms

The causes of false and unwanted fire alarms in hotels can include cigarette smoke, the steam from showers, the accidental triggering of manual Call Points and even contractor activity. Set against that backdrop, and in addition to several other possible triggers, how can hotel management teams seek to minimise fire risk, ensure the safety of staff members and guests and avoid any undue panic and disruption, while at the same time also limiting potential damage to profits and reputation?

A high-performance fire safety system will generally offer false alarm management using ‘cause and effect’-style programming, as well as detection and verification methods designed to assist in the prevention of false alarms.

AlarmCalm false alarm management is available as standard with MxPro 5 panels and delivers unprecedented control of verification and investigation delays. By dividing sites into virtual false alarm ‘building areas’ that are independent of fire zones, end users gain more precise control of false alarm management and reduction strategies to precisely fit the needs of each part of a given hotel building.

In order to highlight some of the solutions to the fire safety challenges posed in the hotel environment, we’ve published ‘AlarmCalm: Complete False Alarm Management for Hotels’. The document outlines the features of the AlarmCalm false alarm management solution and its key components. It also provides an overview of the areas within hotels where different false alarm strategies may be required based on perceived risk, building design and the needs of those end users who are either working or resident within.

Phased evacuation

Selecting a fire panel with the ability to process complicated ‘cause and effect’ information is crucial when it comes to effectively managing the evacuation process. When configured correctly, ‘cause and effect’-centric programming can help to ensure that those individuals most in danger from a fire are evacuated in the first instance.

Meanwhile, the flow of other individuals within the building can be kept at a manageable level and safe escape routes maintained. This is particularly the case when it comes to systems featuring the latest sounders and that actively support recorded messages or varied tones.

When evacuation from a hotel is necessary, it’s vital that escape routes are clear and simple to follow. Although modern buildings are designed to allow occupants to leave quickly and easily in the event of a fire episode, it has to be recognised that transient guests unfamiliar with their surroundings may still struggle to locate the designated exit routes. In older buildings, it’s fair to state that egress can be a somewhat convoluted and/or confusing procedure.

Emergency lighting is both a practical and legal requirement and should be designed to enable quick and safe escape from a hotel building. It’s crucial that emergency lighting is as well maintained as the fire system and that old technology is replaced, not only for safety reasons, but also for keeping overall running costs as low as possible. Modern emergency lighting systems are both smart and user-friendly, offering real opportunities for cost savings, efficiency gains and improved protection. Those improvements begin with the lights themselves.

LEDs offer design, energy-saving and environmental benefits, representing the biggest recent change in the lighting industry. They last between 15% and 30% longer than their fluorescent alternatives, thereby reducing the need for lamp replacement. Their lower power usage also means that they can be installed with smaller battery packs, which themselves deliver both aesthetic and logistical advantages as well as environmental benefits.

The EasySafe range of addressable, low-voltage emergency luminaires and exit signs is designed to work in conjunction with the LuxIntelligent emergency lighting test system. EasySafe devices can be integrated with existing cabling and the installation procedure is both quick and simple. On average, the luminaires will deliver 20% energy efficiency savings when compared to standard fluorescent lighting.

Identifying fire events

Once the Fire and Rescue Service arrives on site, large, multi-storey hotel complexes can make it difficult for firefighters to find and monitor the spread of any fire. This can hamper decision-making, increase reaction times and negatively impact decisions on how to tackle the blaze.

In these scenarios, graphical representation of a hotel building’s zones or areas provides clear indication of the fire’s location and helps the Emergency Services to react appropriately.

In smaller boutique-style hotels, where space can be at a premium and aesthetics are always going to be important, fire panel location can be something of a contentious issue. There’s little doubt that it can be a challenge to integrate fire protection systems discreetly, while in parallel maintaining up-to-the-minute status and control.

For these scenarios, the TouchControl repeater panel is ideal. Its sleek and flush touchscreen design allows hotel messages or safety and security notifications to be displayed when in standby mode. However, upon detector activation, the display instantly reverts to show fire system status via clear maps and plans of the site and the zone/area where the blaze is present. The screen itself has the added benefit that it can be operated by firefighters on scene even when they’re wearing gloves.

Mimic panels providing simplified graphic displays of a monitored site can be strategically positioned near building entrances, thereby enabling members of the Emergency Services to gain a quick overview of the hotel layout and understand the nature of the emergency situation in play. Customised for each site, mimic panels can be integrated with – or otherwise separate from – the fire panel and may also offer additional functionality depending on the requirements of the building.

Our own AdSpecials Department works closely with customers to design and manufacture bespoke systems, panels, control interfaces and enclosures for fire safety systems that provide additional functionality and safety.

Custom mimic panels can incorporate a range of options (from labelling, indication and switches right through to the positioning of all components) ultimately designed to enhance the overall end user experience and deliver ease of operation.

Dynamic integration

Fire systems within larger hotel premises are often required to integrate with a building management system (BMS) in order to exchange information with third party equipment such as CCTV cameras, access control systems, HVAC systems, Public Address/voice alarm systems and other life safety applications. By consolidating data from multiple applications into one system, end users have full oversight of an entire complex in one place. This improves reporting, information management and decision-making processes.

MxPro 5 fire panels easily integrate with a site’s BMS via a dedicated network interface or commander module. Once connected, end users have access to fire system data. For those applications where more graphical control is required, a PC graphics package enables status visibility of an entire site via maps and plans. It also permits fire system control options to be programmed, from device isolation and system control (such as silence/mute and re-set) right through to full system report generation.

For boutique hotels and guest houses, budget constraints may mean that any attendant costs involving equipment, labour and time spent on site all need careful management. Despite the addressable fire panel’s superiority over its conventional alternative, in smaller sites with fewer devices, many addressable fire panels are perceived as being rather expensive relative to overall costs. Time-consuming installation is in no way an attractive prospect for a small hotel owner, either, with ongoing expectations that such premises will be in rentable condition for as many weeks of the year as possible.

Fortunately, smaller hotels usually require less wiring and fewer devices. They don’t need the extensive networks of fire panels, integrated with a host of building safety systems, that their larger chain hotel counterparts often demand. Instead, effective and reliable detection and notification managed by an easy-to-use panel can suffice. This kind of set-up will also continue to meet the high standards demanded around fire safety.

As a solution for small hotels, Go is a non-networkable, single-loop fire panel that saves installers time and hotel owners money. Features such as its easy-fit chassis and door design, intuitive ConfigTool and powerful design checker have all been developed to make Go as easy to install and configure as possible.

Available with a choice of three leading detector protocols, Go offers greater design and maintenance freedom. Meanwhile, wired and wireless versatility render installation procedures across a wide range of sites not only straightforward, but also much less labour intensive.

Transformed experience

Well-considered and implemented fire protection solutions can transform the experience of hotel residents and staff members alike. The right equipment, installed correctly, can prevent false alarms, facilitate safe evacuation, simplify monitoring and maintenance and even reduce the cost of managing fire and life safety-critical systems.

By virtue of making fire protection a priority and specifying the very best equipment for each hotel’s particular needs from the outset, it’s possible for hotel management teams to maximise safety, minimise disturbance and disruption, protect reputations and enhance the feeling of hospitality. All of this creates an excellent impression among guests and will, more often than not, lead to repeat business that positively impacts the bottom line.

Neil Parkin is Sales Manager for North UK and Ireland at Advanced (