Mitigating the Risk of a Fire

Category : Operations
Date : March 29, 2017
Mitigating the Risk of a Fire

In the past few months, my neighborhood in Toronto has seen two, five-alarm fires. Fortunately, in both cases, there was no loss of life nor personal injuries reported. In one instance, a residence only a few months after completion experienced an attic conflagration, destroying a family’s dream of a domestic paradise. As for the other, a recently renovated, century-old racquet club inferno left more than a thousand members ‘in the cold’ with no preferred meeting place or exercise facility.

Not being a member of the fire marshal’s office, I can only surmise the causes and the full extent of structural damage. Both events share a common result, though – unanticipated displacement and a loss in revenue for the business.

As a hotel general manager, no doubt a property fire would be among your worst nightmares. In your position, you have a dual responsibility. First is to mitigate any risk of fire. Second is to have appropriate plans designed to minimize potential injury to guests and staff should a fire occur. Let’s examine both, as not only are the flames bad news when they sprout but you will also be judged on your response.

Risk Mitigation
My first recommendation is to conduct a comprehensive fire safety audit. Many jurisdictions mandate such a survey annually. That interval makes good sense. I recommend seeking the counsel of an independent specialist. Failing that, the review should be led and conducted by your engineering director. This survey should detail and test sprinkler systems, smoke and carbon dioxide sensors as well as kitchen suppression systems, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting and public address systems. Check with your property insurance provider who may also be able to offer formatted documentation and potentially offer recommendations to limit your premium or increase the overall coverage. It goes without saying that audited deficiencies should be addressed immediately and with full documentation.

Minimizing Injuries and Damages
In the office tower where my consultancy is located, property management conducts an annual fire drill. And they’re serious about it, even when my employees are not! Each company renting space has an assigned fire marshal whose responsibility is to ensure everyone follows protocol. We’re on the eleventh floor of a 30-storey building. In unison, we all march down the stairs and across the street to the roar of firetrucks. But it’s all over in about 45 minutes. While such a drill is not feasible for a property occupied with paying guests, the idea to fully prepare your staff is. And this preparation includes all shifts, not just the nine-to-five-weekday team. In fact, anyone who has MOD responsibilities needs to be well-versed in the primary aspects of your property’s crisis planning, as the chance of a fire occurring during off hours is just as high.

I’ve just scratching the surface of this vital topic. Now that it’s been brought this to your attention, what are your next steps?

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotels Magazine on March 7, 2017)