We are a trusting lot.
We book and stay in hotels, making the assumption that they have adequate safety systems in place, so that we can kick back, relax and enjoy a well-deserved break.
Perhaps if you knew that your night of beauty sleep would be disturbed by a false alarm, where you’d have to trek to the car park in your complimentary hotel robe clutching an umbrella to save you from the great British weather, you’d have thought twice about your booking.
False alarms happen, sure. But how would you feel if you knew that it could have been avoided? Quite easily avoided, in fact?
Many hotels focus on the quality of the food, cleanliness and the desirability factor of their facilities; which, of course, are all very important and contribute to a relaxing, memorable stay!
However, no matter the prestige and status of the hotel, all that stands in the way of you and a building filled with frustrated holidaymakers is a false alarm.
And if you’ve ever heard a fire alarm, it’s definitely no soothing midnight concerto.
Below are a couple of the most common reasons for false alarms and what hotel proprietors can do to avoid the above scene playing out…
Two Common Reasons For False Alarms
1. Steamy showers are setting off the smoke detectors.
A well-known issue with false fire alarms in hotels is due to steam from showers setting off the smoke detector. In reality, most smoke detectors can’t tell the difference between smoke and steam due to the way that they work. This is why you’ll sometimes see signs advising you about steam setting off the detector in your room, and how you can avoid it, e.g. by keeping the en suite door closed.
From a hotel’s perspective, is there anything that can be done to avoid this?
YES! You can do any of (or a combination of) the following:
a) Clean or improve the extract system in shower rooms.
b) Move* the detector aware from the shower room; even one metre away would make a different as steam is heavy and loses energy quickly, so it wouldn’t reach the detector.
c) Use a more sophisticated** detector that can differentiate between steam and smoke.
d) Replace your existing smoke detector if it has become sensitive through age. The working life of a smoke detector is 10 years and, over time, they can become more sensitive if they have been exposed to dust. Even if the detectors are fairly new but you’ve undergone redecoration, exposing them to dust, this can impact the efficiency of the detector.
e) Use the technology of your fire alarm system to determine the condition of the detectors connected to your system. This functionality is normally available in ‘addressable’ fire alarms, which the vast majority of hotels will have.
2. My break glasses/manual call points are being triggered by guests.
Another common reason for false alarms is the accidental triggering of a manual call point. Often, buildings with exit doors featuring a ‘press to open’ button can cause confusion if buttons are located within close proximity of a manual call point. Again, there are solutions that can prevent this from occurring:
a) Since 2017, it has been a requirement to fit covers to call points to prevent false alarms. Until this point, the counter argument was that this would slow you down when setting the fire alarm off; however, after ground-breaking research carried out by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service found that most false alarms were caused by accidental activation, it soon became an across-the-board requirement.
b) Think about moving the call point away from the place if it is easily brushed up against or if you have experience false alarms. There are set rules on the locations of call points so make sure to take advice on this before implementing.
c) You could consider the more robust call point covers that have an audible warning when the cover is lifted. This is more of a deterrent and commonly used within secondary schools.
In essence, with the use of correct management, technology, training and, most importantly, action, there doesn’t ever need to be another false alarm.
We’re Here for You
The likelihood of a false alarm occurring is decreased if you’re using a trusted maintenance provider who can identify problems before they happen and make you aware of any obstacles so you can make an informed decision, in addition to carrying out your bi-annual servicing.
If you have been affected by any of these issues and want to discuss your particular system, or if you’d like to seek assistance in stopping specific false alarms on your fire detection and alarm system, then please get in touch.
*Moving the detector requires expert advice as spacing around detectors can affect the performance of the smoke detector. Always seek advice before any movement is planned.
*There are detectors on the market that combine smoke and heat elements, and use algorithms to determine if the readings from the detector ‘look’ like a fire so an intelligent decision is made within the software of the fire alarm system on what actions to take.
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Post by Paul Field
Hello, I’m Paul – the Founder and Managing Director of WFP Fire & Security. I started my career in the Royal Navy before becoming a fire alarm engineer and finding my vocation in helping premises find reliably fire safety and security solutions.More posts by Paul Field