Fire safety in hotels

Fire safety is a serious subject for any business but, due to the sheer number of a hotel’s residents who are unfamiliar with the floor plan, it is pivotal that the correct measures are taken. Read more about fire safety procedures in hotels to ensure that you are complying. 

The Fire Safety Order 2005 is responsible for rolling out fire safety policies in buildings throughout the UK and hotels are no different. It is important that any fire risks in hotels are properly assessed and adequate control measures are properly implemented.

This is so that fires can be prevented and, should one break out, both guests and staff are able to evacuate quickly and safely.

Fire kills, and an average of 326 people lose their lives in fire-related incidents in Britain each year. That figure equates to almost one each day, but you can help to lower that number by applying sufficient safety measures in your hotel and preventing potential tragic events.

Measures set by the Fire Safety Order for hotels

The Fire Safety Order implements a range of duties that hotel bosses must follow as a means of making the premises safe for guests.

Authorities responsible for enforcing such duties hold the power to inspect hotels without prior warning, so it is important to adhere to those duties at all times. If authorities believe that a hotel is failing to comply, they can issue a notice asking for safety measures to be improved – and, if the negligence proves to be too much of a risk, they can prohibit access until the sufficient changes are made.

Fire risk assessment

So, how can a hotel ensure that the correct fire safety measures are taken? The same as all premises, they can carry out a five-stage fire risk assessment.

  1. Identify the hazards. Hotel bosses should consider ways that a fire is able to This could be by obstruction, faulty electrics, damaged kitchen appliances and materials which may cause the fire to spread. Sources of kindling can include paper, wall hangings, laundry, furniture and chemicals.
  2. Consider who is at risk. It should go without saying that, when it comes to fire safety in hotels, guests are the number one concern. It is likely that the guests will not will be familiar with the building and may even be sleeping when a fire breaks out, putting them at risk of serious injury or even death. It is essential for hotel bosses to ensure that vulnerable people with mobility issues or hearing disabilities can escape safely.
  3. Implement the correct measures. It is up to hotel bosses to determine the necessary measures and apply them correctly. It may be that housekeeping needs improving to clear kindling from escape routes. Regular checks for plugs and electrical appliances should be arranged. Disability escape routes from the ground level upwards should be in place – and, if they are not, they should installed immediately.
  4. Any findings and changes during the fire risk assessment should be noted. Enforcing authorities have the power to request evidence proving that fire safety risks have been managed. Keeping a record will also make it easy to track what has been done and what still needs to be done. This record can also be a good indication of what measures work best and which measures should be scrapped.
  5. Review and update regularly. Due to the number of people who use the hotel, it is only natural that it will wear down over time. Because of this, new hazards will appear and any initial control measures may become ineffective; thus, it is important to reassess risks and implement new measures.

Fire safety measures that hotel bosses should take 

Implement fire routes

In the event of a fire, escape routes can save lives. They should allow anyone to reach a place of safety. A fire could grow to block the path of an escape route; hence, it is important to have more than one escape route and test each one regularly.

In order to make escape routes as effective as possible, they should be constructed and enclosed by materials which are both fire- and smoke-resistant. Suitable emergency lightning and signs should be installed to make the route easily identifiable in the case of an emergency.

For escape routes which lead down stairwells, ventilators should be installed, as this will help to rid the atmosphere of smoke. Each escape route should have suitable access for people with disabilities, and fire doors should be kept closed at all times, as this will prevent fire and smoke from spreading.

Appoint responsible fire wardens

It is essential to appoint a responsible person to take charge of fire safety measures and evacuation procedures in a hotel. This responsible person must have the appropriate technical and practical fire safety training so that they know exactly what to do in the event of a fire.

Fire wardens are pivotal in a hotel – as, if guests are not familiar with escape routes, it is likely that they will depend on someone else to guide them in the event of an emergency. Wardens should be given a copy of the guest list to help better coordinate with fire rescue services and identify guests who have not yet managed to evacuate.

There are many things to consider when choosing how many fire wardens to appoint, as this depends on the size of the hotel, how many floors it has, the number of guests it is able to accommodate, the number of shifts and the complexity of the hotel’s layout.

The bare minimum should be one fire warden per floor and one on every shift. Bosses should also bear holiday and sickness cover in mind.

Train staff

Simply appointing a fire warden is not enough, and other employees of the hotel must know what to do if the alarm does sound, or even how to raise the alarm themselves. The correct fire safety training should be provided, and this should inform them of hazard prevention methods, how to spot dangers and how to report them.

As well as external training, internal training should also be given to help familiarise staff with escape routes and assembly points. The fire warden should make themselves known to employees, and employees should make sure they know who their designated fire warden is.

Create an evacuation plan

It is difficult to outline set evacuation strategies, as all buildings are different, particularly hotels. It is likely that you will implement either a phased evacuation – whether vertical or horizontal – or a simultaneous evacuation.

A vertical or horizontal phased evacuation is appropriate when a hotel accommodates a large number of guests and has several floors and a complex layout.

The hostel must sound an alarm and first evacuate anyone at imminent risk; this would be people on floors where the fire is as well as those on the floors above. Anyone else should be temporarily delayed.

Simultaneous evacuation is ideal for smaller hotels with a simple layout. Alarms should be able to alert every room and floor simultaneously and prompt people to evacuate immediately.

Install the necessary detection and alarm systems

It is a legal requirement for hotels to have fire detection and alarm systems located on their premises. Numerous call points should be installed, and these can be found in the most obvious locations, as they will allow both guests and employees to raise the alarm if they do discover a fire. Fire alarms should be tested regularly and call points ought to be tested at least once a week. These tests should be carried out during working hours.

Hotel bosses and staff directly responsible for fire safety in a hotel should consider whether more than one form of alarm is needed. Visual alarms may need to be installed to help alert people with hearing disabilities.

Alarms also need to be loud enough to wake guests who are sleeping. It is recommended that alarms installed near the bed are around 75 decibels; it is imperative that guests wake up in the event of a fire, as smoke inhalation may not be noticeable but is certainly fatal.

Arrange maintenance and repairs

Carrying regular checks should mean that any problems are spotted immediately – and, with this, the necessary repairs can then be carried out. This could be by an external service engineer, a contractor or a competent person within the business.

Whoever is chosen should check plug sockets, kitchen appliances, electrical appliances, equipment in rooms, emergency lighting, firefighting equipment and fire doors.

As required by the fire risk assessment, any maintenance or repairs carried out should be recorded, as they can not only act as evidence of compliance but also inform the appropriate persons when equipment needs servicing.

Provide detailed information to guests

When guests check in, they should be made aware of where they can find fire escape routes and where any manual call points are. Guests should also be reminded of fire safety notices and provided with information sheets – or, at least, these sheets should be clearly displayed in each bedroom.

With New Year on the horizon, the number of people staying in hotels is only going to increase, and it is likely that guests will be under the influence of alcohol as they celebrate the New Year. Hence, it is essential that guests are made aware of escape routes and what to do in the event of a fire.

Information on fire information sheets should convey what to do if a guest discovers a fire, what to do if the alarm sounds, the nearest escape route to their room, and the nearest assembly point. Providing this information on arrival means that guests are more likely to take faster action if a fire alarm does sound.

Whether you are a hotel boss yourself, you work in a hotel or you are a guest, you may still have some qualms regarding fire safety in hotels. We have answered the most frequently asked questions surrounding the topic.


  • What are the penalties?

In England and Wales, breaching fire regulations can attract an unlimited fine, and the responsible person will be prosecuted as an individual rather than as a company. Any enforcement action resulting from the court case (usually held in a magistrates’ court) is published online for everyone to see.

  • What is the biggest fine recorded?

The biggest fine recorded for a hotel failing to comply with fire safety regulations is £210,000. The Chumleigh Lodge Hotel in London was hit with the fine in 2012 for offences dating as far back as 2008.

The fire and rescue service were called after a fire spread rapidly from a first-floor bedroom to the second floor. Following the fire, fire inspectors found 12 offences. The offences included no smoke alarms; defective fire doors; obstructive fire escape routes; no staff training regarding fire safety; and an unsuitable fire risk assessment.

  • Does a hotel need fire extinguishers?

Generally, one fire extinguisher should be provided for every 200 square metres, with a minimum of two per floor. However, if the hotel is very small and only has one floor, one fire extinguisher appropriate to the risk level that is present may be suitable, though this should be checked. It is important to assess the appropriate guide for that type of hotel and judge the appropriate type of extinguisher based on any potential risks.

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