Paul Pope, Group Business Development Director at Global Fire Equipment reveals the top considerations to take into account when protecting hotels with detection systems
Fire protection in hospitality is an industry that requires several key factors to be taken into consideration when designing and implementing any new systems into hotels. As is common knowledge, each building comes with different risks, evacuation routes and needs when it comes to fire equipment. This is largely down to the difference in layout, number of people who are inside and the level of intricacy that is required to meet the needs of the hotel.
Here, Paul Pope, Group Business Development Director at Global Fire Equipment (GFE), delves deep into the key considerations when designing fire detection and alarm systems for hotels.
Has GFE been involved in the design of many fire detection and alarm systems (FDASs) for hotels?
Yes, over the years we have designed, supplied and commissioned FDASs for a large number of hotels globally, including some of the world’s largest hotel chains such as Radisson Blu and Vila Galé.
What makes designing FDASs for hotels particularly complex?
Depending on their size, hotels can be occupied by hundreds if not thousands of people 24 hours a day if you take into account the staff, guests and other visitors. This sheer volume of traffic and occupancy is a challenge on its own, but added to this is the fact that hotels often span vast areas, can include high-rise buildings or incorporate different types of connected buildings such as spas, health clubs, meeting rooms, restaurants, bars and children’s clubs, etc. Add all these factors together and it is easy to see why designing FDASs for hotels presents a number of unique challenges.
What is the most important consideration when designing FDASs for hotels?
I would say that clarity of communication about every fire event across the entire system is perhaps the most important consideration given the sheer scale of the FDASs required for larger hotels. To ensure the safety of a hotel’s occupants and staff, the fire detection and alarm control panels must be capable of continually monitoring each individual device on the system and logging every event. In this way, those responsible for monitoring and managing the system can take immediate action and respond – whether there is a genuine fire event, a false/unwanted alarm or a fault condition. The overarching objective is to provide for timely alarm notifications and the safety of all occupants in accordance with an evacuation strategy which should be designed and tested to avoid panic and confusion in exit routes.
How can the design of the FDAS help to reduce the likelihood of false or unwanted alarms in hotels?
Although it is difficult to completely eradicate false or unwanted alarms, one of the best ways to reduce the problem is by developing a robust emergency and management strategy as this will guarantee minimum inconvenience in the event of an alarm. It may also be necessary to work alongside safety specialists and authorities to develop a Transmission Delay approach in order to execute a well-planned phased evacuation strategy, alongside a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP). Today, thanks to the latest advances in fire detection technology and premises management, we are seeing much lower incidences of false alarms across the board.
Should different alarm devices be used in different areas of a hotel?
Yes, a one size fits all approach simply does not work for hotels as each hotel will present its own issues that need specific management. Take, for example, the accommodation. One of the main objectives of hotel owners is, understandably, to create soundproof accommodation that allows guests a good night’s sleep. It is therefore essential that each room is assessed for the type of guests in occupancy and fitted with adequate audible/intelligible alarms, visual Alarm Devices and, where necessary, vibrating devices. Communal areas such as restaurants and bars, on the other hand, should have dedicated wide area audible/intelligible alarm and visual alarm devices.
Do different areas of a hotel also have differing sensitivity requirements?
Yes, FDASs have to be designed to cope with differing levels of compliant sensitivity requirements, depending on the hazard within each particular area of a hotel. Each area needs to be protected with the right type of fire sensor. During working hours, for example, a kitchen area should have heat detectors or multi-sensors configured for heat only.
And is the position of the control and indicating equipment important?
Definitely. In the event of a fire event, both the hotel’s emergency team and first responders must be able to access the event information in strategic locations throughout the premises. This information can be delivered in a number of ways, including via SMS pager messages or the strategic placement of additional control and indicating equipment (repeaters), etc.
In the case of hotel bedrooms, one of the most common mistakes made is placing detectors in the room’s entry hall, close to or in front of the bathroom door as this can result in false alarms due to water vapour/steam ingress in the detector chamber. In standard hotel rooms (from 15 to 30sqm), the ideal placement of a smoke detector is in the centre of the sleeping area.
Do hotels normally have to close during upgrade works to their FDASs?
Not necessarily. We are often involved in upgrade projects where the installation work has to take place in a ‘live’ environment where the hotel remains open to guests throughout the installation and commissioning. To facilitate this, our installation partners work closely with the management team at the hotel to undertake work area by area, clearing each area of hotel guests while works are underway.
How important is resilient networking when designing FDASs for hotels?
It is really important that specifiers incorporate a system survivability performance specification within the scope of works. The design, installation and type of system products used should be compliant and verified against the system survivability time specified. With the requirement of distributed systems, GFE has manufactured highly resilient networked fire detection and alarm systems since the company’s inception in 1994, using very robust physical layers such as enhanced fire-resistant cabling. We insist on using fully redundant multi-master peer-to-peer network technology which can be further enhanced in a mesh topology to increase the systems survivability rating.
In our current range of fire control panels, we can achieve distributed architectures with up to 128 loops and we can network 64 of those with our top layer of Building Management System (BMS) monitoring. The sophisticated networking capability and the cause-and-effect software of our panels analyses exactly what is going on across systems to help provide invaluable information for decision making.
Can you give an example of a hotel project where multiple panels were used to connect different hotel buildings?
Yes. Last year we were involved in a project to design, supply and commission a new fire alarm system for the Radisson Blu Fujairah, a 5-star resort in the northeast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The chosen 9-loop system for the hotel complex comprises two panels. The first panel has four loops, each of which connects to 110 devices which cover the main four-storey hotel building and two other connected four-storey buildings.
The second control panel has five loops, each of which connects to more than 100 devices which cover the third connected four-storey building, the external areas of the three-storey health club, the two-storey diving centre, a bar and the four three-storey villas. In total, the system comprises 780 smoke detectors, ten heat detectors, 40 manual call points (MCPs), 100 input output modules, 50 sounders, two network cards and ten amplifier modules.
For further information on Global Fire Equipment, please visit www.globalfire-equipment.com.