National and supranational legislation thankfully sets high standards of fire prevention, detection and safety in hotels - the ever-advancing technology of fire detection systems in particular is often featured in GIT SECURITY. However, other aspects of the fire strategy may be overlooked; smoke extraction, emergency lighting, the availability of fire extinguishers, escape stairways and outside assembly points. There is a delicate balance to be found between extracting the smoke and poisonous gases that fires can create and actually making a fire spread more quickly. Applying specialist knowledge of active and passive extraction systems and fire curtains is essential to ensure that stairways stay smoke-free and also to cope adequately with the specific architectural features of the building such as open atriums, elevator shafts and large kitchens. Coupled to a fire alarm system, correct operation relevant to the location of the fire must be ensured by either opening the relevant shutters or keeping them closed and activating the right fans.
Light My Fire
So we have our guests safely tucked up in the hotel. But getting them out of an unfamiliar building quickly to escape an emergency situation, perhaps while still half asleep, can be a real challenge. The chances of success are significantly higher if exit routes, doors and stairwells are identified by appropriately lit signs. If they are honest, hardly anyone will admit to taking the time to study the escape route plan on the back of the guest room door before unpacking their case. But thankfully almost everyone can recognize the internationally familiar green exit icon in the corridor outside, no matter in what language the words are written underneath.
There are self-contained emergency light units but more advanced systems link them in a bus formation and monitor their condition. The latest systems use wireless area controllers that monitor a few light fittings, checking their functionality regularly and receiving instructions from a centralized PC to start a discharge/recharge cycle. Where style of decor is an important factor, hotel corridors can now be fitted with the same type of evacuation lighting strips found on the floor of aircraft that lead people safely to the emergency exit.
For example, the LED-based intelligent evacuation system from the Finnish company Marimils can even be elegantly incorporated into transparent floors and decor to show the quickest way to the exit.
Normally providing soothing background music, the public address (PA) system becomes an essential tool in instructing people how to leave a building efficiently without causing panic. Coupled with the fire alarm or - better - building management system, different pre-recorded announcements can be triggered according to the zone and type of event. Coupled with the in-house telephone system, it also provides an excellent medium to alert other staff members from virtually anywhere in the building.
Gone are the days when myriad switches, dials and levers controlled all the different incompatible fire, access, car park, surveillance, climatic and ventilation systems. Bemused new staff no longer have to take a training course that would have equipped them to pilot the Starship Enterprise. The trend of integration into sensible, all-embracing building security systems has simplified the monitoring and operation of all these potentially complex systems. Using the same principle adopted by aircraft manufacturers for pilots that everything is working properly unless otherwise indicated, only essential information is presented, and that in a uniform manner that can be quickly and easily understood. Today's integrated building management system (BMS) control points present information on a ‘need-to-know' basis. Out-of-range operation shows up as a non-critical alarm while major alarms are analyzed and filtered to make sense before being presented. A contemporary BMS will look after energy management and, in an emergency, will simultaneously coordinate the fire alarm, air conditioning, smoke extraction, public address, elevator (lift) control and access control systems much more efficiently than a human being could ever do under stress.
In Your Lap ... Top
A word about your own IT security. At the latest when computer systems are networked with each other, it is essential to have effective security measures in place. Hotel IT equipment is no less susceptible to attack, misuse or malicious damage than that installed in offices. If a public Internet service is provided then this must ideally be entirely separate from in-house systems. Further, independent firewalls for both public and company systems should be maintained and set to immediately report any suspicious activity. Potential damages claims arising from the use of a hotel Wi-Fi or wired public Internet service can be refuted by ensuring that robust security measures were in place.
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