Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio January
Back to Basics
By Oren Jaffe, CMP
DO-IT-YOURSELF FIRE DRILL
Don’t take their word for it: How to inspect a facility’s
When contracting to hold a meeting in a major hotel, many
planners just assume the property’s fire-safety measures are up to
snuff. But planners would be wise to check up on the hotel’s
ability to prevent a disaster.
Why? Here are a few reasons:In November 1980, a fire at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas
killed 85 people.On Dec. 31, 1986, a fire in the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan,
Puerto Rico, killed 97 people in 12 minutes.On Nov. 19, 2000, flames gutted a section of Colorado’s Vail
Marriott Mountain Resort, destroying 116 guest rooms. (No one was
injured.) Investigations into both the MGM and Dupont fires
concluded that properly outfitted sprinkler systems would have
saved lives and substantially minimized the damage.
These two fires served as catalysts to the enactment of the
landmark Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act of 1990. Properties that
comply with the law are included in the Hotel and Motel Fire Safety
Act of 1990 National Master List, which is published in the
Federal Register and maintained by representatives of the
United States Fire Administration. The list can be found on the
agency’s Web site (www.usfa.fema.gov).
The law is applicable to all places of public accommodation and
requires them to be equipped with the following.Hard-wired, single-station smoke detectors in each guest room
in accordance with National Fire Protection Association standard
an automatic sprinkler system, with a sprinkler in each guest
room in compliance with NFPA standards 13 or 13R. Properties with
no more than three stories are exempt from the sprinkler
TAKE THE INITIATIVE
Although formal roles and primary responsibility are assigned to
the hotelier and various enforcement agencies, there are steps
meeting professionals can take before signing the hotel
Learn the basics. Learn about general fire
prevention and safety, sprinkler systems and smoke detectors from
your local fire department, the library or the USFA.
Check up on the hotel. Request written proof of
the hotel’s fire-safety compliance.
Inspect for fire safety. Conduct (with a
fire-safety inspector whenever possible) a thorough physical
inspection of the hotel to assess its compliance and suitability.
Look for easy-to-open doors and clear signage in guest rooms,
meeting rooms and corridors. Note where corridor and stairway
traffic congestion may occur. Check the condition and proximity to
the street of guest room windows and external stairways. Lighting
should be bright in stairways and in corridors. Check the alarm
system and public address system, and look for a functional and
portable fire extinguisher in each corridor. Are escape routes
indicated for people with disabilities?
Evacuate. Take a hotel management-guided tour
of all evacuation routes from all areas of the venue. Get the
hotel’s written procedures for evacuation.
Read the plan. Ask for the hotel’s written
policies for staff conduct during and after a fire emergency.
Call the fire department. Discuss with the
local station its response time and procedures if it is called to
Confirm insurance. Be sure the hotel has
adequate fire and liability insurance, and your organization, as
meeting sponsor, has sufficient fire and liability insurance for
Have a contingency plan. Verify that financial
and logistical arrangements have been made and procedures have been
established between the hotel and neighboring properties and
restaurants in the event guests are not able to return to the hotel
quickly.Oren Jaffe, CMP, is director of meeting
services at Rockville, Md.-based Cygnus Corp.
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