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Alan Cox Discusses Planning for Hotel Fire Safety, Sponsored by FireCad

Alan Cox Discusses Planning for Hotel Fire Safety, Sponsored by FireCad

Guidance from Europe

The Council of European Communities made a recommendation on 22nd December 1986 on fire safety in existing hotels (86/666/EC)

The purpose of these recommendations was to:

1.1. Reduce the risk of fire breaking out;

1.2. Prevent the spread of flames and smoke;

1.3. Ensure that all occupants can be evacuated safely;

1.4. Enable the emergency services to take action

This was supplemented by Technical Guidelines covering:

Part 1 Escape routes

Part 2 Construction features

Part 3 Coverings and decorations

Part 4 Electric lighting

Part 5 Heating

Part 6 Ventilation systems

Part 7 Fire fighting, alarm and alerting equipment

Part 8 Safety instructions

The guidance on layout and information plans was very precise and stated where they were required:

8.1.In the entrance hall of the hotel:

8.1.1. Precise instructions on action to be taken by the staff and the public in the event of fire must be prominently posted.

8.1.2. A plan of the hotel for the information of emergency teams shall indicate the location of:-staircases and escape routes,-available extinguishers,- gas and electricity supply shut-off devices,- where appropriate, the shut-off device for the ventilation system,-the control panel for the automatic detection and alarm system where appropriate, -installations and areas of particular risk where appropriate.

8.2. On each floor:A simplified layout plan located in the vicinity of the floor access point in hotels having two or more storey’s above the ground.

8.3. In each bedroom

8.3.1. Prominently posted and precise instructions shall indicate the action to be taken in the event of fire; in addition to the national languages, these instructions must be posted up in appropriate foreign languages depending on the origin of the hotel’s usual guests.

8.3.2. These instructions shall be accompanied by a simplified floor plan showing schematically the location of the room in relation to escape routes, staircases and/or exits.

8.4. The instructions shall, in particular, draw attention to the fact that lifts must not be used in the event of fire, except for lifts reserved for the handicapped which are specially protected.

Fire Plans

The use of fire plans in Fire Certificates has been with us for many years and now that we have the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 their provision is outlined in the fire safety guides as “Plans and specifications can be required to assist understanding of a fire risk assessment or emergency plan. Even where not needed for this purpose they can help you and your staff keep your fire risk assessment and emergency plan under review and help the fire and rescue service in the event of fire” – never a truer word spoken. But when are we going to implement and enforce this?

When I first started in a fire safety department in the 1960’s one of my first jobs was to carry out inspections of premises licensed for music, singing and dancing and in nearly all of these premises there were no plans available so I had to draw my own plans to scale so that the maximum permitted numbers of people and fire safety features could be shown. Whilst this was not the easiest task with the technology that was available at the time I soon found out how useful these plans were when the users changed layouts, escape routes or usage of the building. In many instances the fire authority were not consulted about these changes and so these diy plans formed very strong evidence where it was stated that no changes had been made.

Eventually, I moved on to issuing fire certificates and whilst we had our own draughtsman I still had to do most of the measuring and rough sketches which were then later turned into the plans that accompanied fire certificates and although these were only single line drawings they proved more than adequate for re-inspection and legal proceedings. If ever there were questions about a building the plan was invariably the first document that was consulted and proved a continuing source of useful information about the fire precautions in a building.

A typical Fire Certificate plan:


Many organizations also used these plans for a variety of reasons because they were easier to read than architects plans and many exhibited a copy around the building so that people could see for themselves exactly what fire precautions were installed. And so apart from the legal requirement they proved very useful and through they are not now mandatory many people who had fire certificates still refer to the plan and I have also seen them adapted with electrical and drainage arrangements shown on them.

If you look at fires such as the Penhallow Hotel Fire – without a copy of the old fire certificate how would we have known that the central light and ventilation well was unprotected from fire spread because there was no evidence left to examine. This obviously poses a serious question for the future if building fire plans are not available and we have to rely on written risk assessments and individual interpretations of what should or should not have happened.

A fire safety plan is required by all North American national, state and provincial fire codes based on building use or occupancy types. Generally, the owner of the building is responsible for the preparation of a fire safety plan. Buildings with elaborate emergency systems may require the assistance of a fire protection consultant. After the plan has been prepared, it must be submitted to the Chief Fire Official or authority having jurisdiction for approval. Once approved, the owner is responsible for implementing the fire safety plan and training all staff in their duties. It is also the owner’s responsibility to ensure that all visitors and staff are informed of what to do in case of fire. During a fire emergency, a copy of the approved fire safety plan must be available for the responding fire departments use.

The plan has to include the following:

  • Key contact information
  • Utility services (Including shut-off valves for water, gas and electric)
  • Access issues
  • Dangerous stored materials
  • Location of people with special needs
  • Connections to a sprinkler system
  • Layout, drawing, and site plan of building
  • Maintenance schedules for life safety systems
  • Personnel training and fire drill procedures


In Austrailia they are required by the Occupational Healthy and Safety Act and the Occupancy Permits for hotel type accommodation buildings, usually have a requirement to adopt AS3745 “Planning for emergencies in facilities” – which sets out the guidance required for these systems. Note: more recently in Austrailia they are referred to as Evacuation Diagrams (Evacuation Plans incorporate the diagram, the procedures, the manuals, etc.)

International Standards on the Design of Fire Escape Plans

The new ISO (DIN) ‘ISO 23601:2009, Safety identification – Escape and evacuation plan signs’ standard will help to ensure that if a fire breaks out in a building,the occupants and staff are more easily able to understand escape plans and signs.

The standard establishes design principles for displayed escape plans that provide information vital to fire safety, escape, evacuation and rescue of a facility’s occupants.

The purpose of escape plans is to help people orient themselves in relation to the planned escape route. In this way, the escape plan complements the facility’s safety exit guidance system. These plans, which may be displayed as signs in work places and in public areas, may also be used by fire, rescue and medical teams, as well as by intervention forces in the case of terrorist attack.

The standard has been developed because there is a need to harmonize on an international scale a system of communicating escape routes in facilities that relies as little as possible on the use of words to get the message through.With an increasingly mobile world population and ever-greater opportunities for international trade, graphical symbols are an essential tool for concisely conveying messages to users independently of language. Where safety signs are concerned, ease and speed of recognition are vital to help save people from injury and death.

ISO 23601 is based on the safety signs, colour codes and design requirements of’ ISO7010:2003, Graphical symbols – Safety colours and safety signs – Safety signs’.It establishes a common method of illustrating the position of the viewer in relation to designated escape routes leading to emergency exits and the location of fire safety and emergency equipment close to escape routes. It covers the following:

1.Design requirements

2.Size of plan elements

3.Content and representation


5. Installation and location

6. Inspection and revision

The use of ISO 23601:2009 is expected to reduce risk by providing a means of improved training and education and to reduce possible confusion in times of emergency.

The Cost of Fire Plans

Whenever I undertake a Fire Risk Assessment in a hotel I always recommend the provision of Fire Plans and the first question that I am asked is are they a requirement under the legislation and what is the cost? To the first question I point the min the direction of the relevant guidance and this is usually enough for them to decide not to provide them and whilst the fire authorities in the UK choose not to enforce this they will not be provided which appears to me to be a serious omission particularly when our partners in Europe and around the world are providing them.

As to cost this is a difficult one to estimate but ranges from about £10 per room for professionally designed and printed signs which can be slightly higher for smaller hotels or lower for larger hotels (400 plus rooms) to nothing for hand drawn plans. Even when I suggest the last option to some hotel owners – they indicate that they don’t have the time.

Serious Hotel Fires

During the last 11 years there have been a number of serious hotel fires around the world, including:

2000 May 7 Portugal, Cascais, Hotel Village – 2 people died

2001 August 17 Philippines, Quezon City, Manila, Manor Hotel – 75 people died

2001 September 29 India, Northern Kashmir, Sopore, – 12 people died

2001 December 17 France, Paris, Hotel du Palais on Place du Chatelet – 4 peopl diedand 18 injured.

2003March 5 South Africa, Johannesburg, Rand Inn – 6 people died and 67 injured

2004 May 1 Italy, Rome, Parco dei Principi Hotel – 3 died

2005April 15 France, Paris 9th Arrondissement, Paris Opera House – 22people died and 50 injured

2007 August 18 England, Newquay Penhallow Hotel – 3 people died

2009 February China, Bejing, Mandarin Oriental – 1 person died, hotel destroyed

2009 Poland, Kamienec Pomorski – 18 people died

2009 Turkey, Marmaris – 8 injured

2010 England, Harrogate – 1 persona died and 132 people evacuated

2010 England, Blackpool, Queens Hotel – 126 people evacuated, hotel destroyed

2010 England, Blackpool, Grand Hotel – 100 people evacuated

2010 Iraq, Sulimaniya, Soma Hotel – 40 people died

2011 China, Changchun, No1 Home Inns – 10 dead, 35 injured

2011 England, London, Park Lane Hilton – 1500 people evacuated

The above list represents those serious hotel fires that are known about and is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all serious fires and incidents.

An Effective Fire Safety Management Plan (FSMP)

In order to be effective a Fire Safety Management Plan requires a number of key elements and these are shown in the diagram below.


1. Good standards of fire safety and enforcement.

This is the starting point for any effective Fire Safety Management Plan (FSMP) and the relevant guides published by HM Government will help you understand the standards that you are required to meet. Whilst this is a good starting point there are other ways of meeting the standards but you will have to be able to prove that they will meet a similar level of fire safety.

Enforcement is a key issue in meeting the required standards because different fire services have various objectives, inspection intervals, levels of knowledge and staff. Even within the same service area you can get different levels of enforcement in neighbouring divisions.

2. An Effective Fire Safety Policy (FPD)

For any FSMP to be effective it has to have a Fire Policy Document (FPD) which sets out in detail what the company or organization is aiming to achieve. It should detail the responsibilities of senior staff and how they are to discharge their duties and who is ultimately responsible for overseeing the policy. Some companies or organisations combine this with their Health and Safety Policy.

3. Strong Fire Safety Management

It’s pointless having a FPD if this is not backed up with strong management who are able to lead and make decisions together with setting a good example. I quite often see organisations that have a good FPD let down by senior management that constantly ignore everyday fire safety issues such as walking through a Fire Door that is constantly propped open. If staff see managers ignoring this bad practice they will assume that it’s ok for them to do it.

4. Effective Active and Passive Fire Safety

When installing both active and passive fire safety measures it’s important that the right standard of equipment is installed and that any related operational procedures work together. When you install any equipment make sure that it will work and that it is to the correct standard and installed by competent people.I have seen many systems installed by reputable companies fail when carrying out the commissioning tests.

It’s also important that staff understand the levels of active and passive fire safety measures and have confidence in their capabilities and that they are maintained to the correct standard.

Should Hotels in the UK Provide Graphic Fire Safety Building Plans?

I am a keen advocate for their provision in hotels and other public buildings because I believe that they provide a simple overview of fire safety that text only documents can’t and that they also allow staff and visitors to clearly see what level of fire protection is being provided, or not provided as the case may be.

Clearly,they are in general use in Europe and around the world and the guidance from Europe is that we should provide them but as previously stated if the fire authorities don’t require them, then hoteliers are unlikely to provide them.

Alan Cox is a fire and safety consultant, he has held senior fire and safety posts in the public and private sector. Please contact Alan on mail@alanfcox.co.uk if you have any comments or questions.

How often do you go into a hotel room and notice the escape plan sited on the back of the door? If there is a plan, it may have been produced by the management using any method of drawing from a simple pencil sketch, a block drawing from a popular pdf program or an over complicated drawing with non standard symbols which has to be interpreted ..Perhaps in a hurry..

An international Standard has been produced which should be implemented to overcome any misunderstandings


Individual fire escape drawings for hotelr ooms, public areas and workplaces.

Thesedrawings must indicate in colour:- Orientation & location ( You are here), escape routes,fire-fighting equipment, manual fire alarm call points, refuges,assembly points and overview site plans,

FireCad can produce these using the most up to date version of AutoCad.

FireCad can also produce all types of plans & drawings associated with fire safety and drawn with the current release of AutoCad .

Management plans to assist with fire risk assessments with all necessary fire precautions indicating fire fighting equipment , signage fire resistance, fire detection & emergency lighting.

Firealarm zone drawings which are required to be sited adjacent to main fire alarm indicator panels in accordance with BS 5839.

Plans for premises information boxes to assist attending fire brigade personnel

Other plans for various other applications, Care homes , Rest homes, Licensed Caravan sites, HMO ( Common ways), Licensing applications for all types of premises including , Clubs , Public Houses, Restaurants,…

In fact any premise that requires a plan…contact:-



01273 414688