Jane Embury takes a look at hotel fire safety.
Arran Wright, our workshop and training manager, recently wrote about staying in a hotel in Scotland.
The fire door in the corridor outside his room was propped open by, irony of ironies, a fire extinguisher.
The psychology of fire is that it’s something that always happens to someone else.
But in the twelve months to April this year, there were 613 fires in UK hotels, B&Bs and boarding houses.
As always, most were caused by faulty wiring or a dropped cigarette, and were relatively minor.
But, underlining the malignancy of some fires, a devastating fire at the Shedden Hall Hotel in Torquay was started deliberately. The hotel was entirely destroyed.
While fatalities are rare, it’s also worth remembering that 17 people died earlier this year in a fire in a budget hotel in Delhi, India.
Night-time hotel fires are particularly dangerous because residents, woken by fire alarms, will be disorientated.
On top of that, they’re in an unfamiliar place and may not know the best evacuation route.
There is much evidence that lift shafts can play an important role in hotel fires.
They provide a ready pathway for smoke and fire to travel upwards.
Buoyant fire gases in a lift shaft can quickly fill upper floors. It’s the reason why the majority of hotel fatalities occur on higher floors far removed from the seat of the fire.
That was certainly true in 1980 MGM Grand Hotel fire in Las Vegas which claimed 84 lives. It was the worst disaster in Nevada history.
In that incident, the fire primarily only damaged the second floor.
But most of the deaths occurred on the upper floors, with elevator shafts and stairwells allowing toxic smoke to spread upwards.
The 1977 Hotel Polen fire in Amsterdam is another example that stands out in recent fire history. In that conflagration, 33 people died.
The five-storey hotel, built at the end of the 19th century, was almost entirely made from wood, including load-bearing elements.
The cause of the fire was never established, but the likely explanation is that a fire had been smouldering undetected for some time.
When the lift shaft was opened, it allowed an inflow of oxygen with fire and hot gases spreading vertically.
Lifts can therefore be both friend or foe and modern building regulations require lift shafts to be properly protected.
This ensures that any fire is contained within the shaft and not allowed to spread smoke and hot gases upwards and into guest areas – as happened in Las Vegas.
Containing fire is also what Wrightstyle glazing systems are designed to achieve.
Compartmentation is what keeps us safe in a fire, trapping it in a contained area and preventing it from spreading.
For everywhere else in a building, from external curtain walling to internal fire screens and doors, Wrightstyle’s systems provide the complete safety solution.
Unless, of course, you prop open our fire doors with a fire extinguisher.