Hotel Fire and Safety in Tourism Accommodation in Europe
Fire safety in hotels across Europe varies considerably. Following a stay in a hotel in Hungary, Alan Cox was compelled to address some serious issues.
Booking tourist accommodation in Europe and expecting it to be up to the standards that we have in the UK is a very hit and miss affair.
Some countries have good standards in certain areas of safety and poor in others; some countries have good standards in all areas; while others have very low standards across the board.
So, how can we ensure that the accommodation that we book meets the standards required by individual countries and the European Union?
There are a lot of different safety standards issued by the EU but many are not mandatory – such as fire – and bringing 28 countries up to the same standard is a task that I believe will take many years to achieve.
In order to try to and get a better grasp of the situation, a Green Paper on the Safety of Tourism Accommodation was issued that covers areas such as fire safety, carbon monoxide, balconies, glass doors, rooms and accessibility and vulnerable consumers.
To give you an idea of the problems that exist I booked a recent visit to Hungary with a large UK tour operator and was put up in a hotel that they use regularly for large parties. When we arrived I found that the hotel had virtually no fire safety measures installed.
On my return to the UK I sent a comprehensive report to the agent who booked the hotel highlighting all of the problems. They responded indicating that it met Hungarian standards and was fully compliant, and said they had also sent a UK fire consultant to visit the premises and apart from a minor item relating to a fire escape door, it was ok.
I disputed this fact and the agent said that in future they would put their guests nearer to the staircase – although I expressed the view that this would make very little difference because the entire hotel was unsafe.
While this was going on, I also contacted the Hungarian Fire Service with a copy of my report, and they responded to me agreeing with all the comments but indicating that their was no legislation that enabled them to enforce fire safety standards in hotels of that type, and all they had was a recommendation from that came from the EU. I forwarded this letter to the agent, who withdrew the hotel immediately and thanked me for my persistence.
The above is an illustration of the scope of the problem in trying to achieve standardisation in all of the areas, which would be a huge cost for some countries.
Even trying to get 28 countries to agree to one standard is a difficult task because each country has its own interests and standards that it probably thinks is better than any others and doesn’t really want to change.
Then on top of that, we have the language and translation problems, which present their own challenges and this is even before we have thought about how it will be implemented and enforced in member states.
I cannot see a pan-European solution being implemented overnight and in the hope that Europe will at least implement a system that gives the consumer better choice, I have submitted a proposal entitled Travel Safe Europe that uses the US Fire Safe Hotel scheme as a model for its basis.
In essence the scheme is very basic and, because it does not affect a country’s existing standard, it does not require vast expenditure except for the setting up of a European database of hotels, which currently exists in the private sector and could be utilised as it contains a vast amount of data including facilities, numbers of rooms and sizes, etc.
This database could be managed at a European level, or put into the private sector. A list of minimum requirements would need to be agreed for each area of fire and safety. This could be done on a country-by-country basis or as a European Standard.
Once this was in place all the owners would need to do is to submit a ‘Letter of Compliance’ and their establishment would be put onto a publicly available and searchable list of Safe European Tourism Accommodation, with the facility to remove the establishment if it was subsequently identified that there was a problem.
The scheme is very simple in essence and has great advantages for both the traveller in Europe and for those establishments that take fire and safety seriously.
It would also help to identify those establishments that were not up to the minimum standards, something that the traveller is not able to do at present.
It would also be possible with the database to add on fires and accidents that would help greatly to compare how countries were progressing with improving fire and safety measures.
Read Alan’s report in full.
Alan Cox is a consultant and during his career has worked for Warwick County Fire Service, West Midlands Fire Service, West Birmingham Health Authority, where he was responsible for developing a computerised hospital fire evacuation program that was used in many major hospitals. He also worked for HSBC before setting up his own fire and safety consultancy in 2005. During his career he has published a number of books on fire safety and made many specialist technical videos on subjects such as hospital evacuation, fire protection of electronic data protection areas, fire doors, and mail room safety.
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