Flouted fire rules risk holidaymakers' lives

Hundreds of British hoteliers have been issued with fire authority warnings, IoS research reveals

The lives of thousands of holidaymakers are put at risk every day because hotels and guesthouses in Britain are potential death-traps, fire safety experts have warned.

Poorly maintained smoke alarms, blocked stairways and fire exit routes, are among the faults tolerated by owners who are either still ignorant, or are flouting, rules that make them legally responsible for fire safety.

Fire officers say that many hoteliers and guest house owners believe they are still covered by certificates originally issued decades ago. Other deficiencies include poorly trained staff and inadequate measures to stop hotel rooms and corridors becoming heavily smoke-logged.

Research conducted by the IoS revealed that fire authorities across the country have issued thousands of prohibition and enforcement notices to hotels and guest houses after discovering failings. Since the act came into force in October 2007, Lancashire Fire Authority, which covers hotels in resorts such as Blackpool and Morecambe, issued more than 1,500 enforcement and, the more serious, prohibition notices to hoteliers. In Cornwall there have been more than 200; in Devon and Somerset, nearly 300.

Some hoteliers are also being prosecuted. Last month, Blackpool hotel owner Nicholas Danby was given a one-year suspended sentence following the death of 39-year-old Stephen Smith in 2007 at the Manor Hotel. The court hear that Danby failed to maintain smoke alarms or properly train staff. Firefighters who arrived at the hotel could not discover how many people were in the building or where they were sleeping.

In May, Wesley Chesters, owner of the Queens Head Hotel, in Worksop, was fined £4,000 after a fire which led to four people having to be rescued. The court heard he had failed to apply "Keep Shut" signs to all fire doors.

The warnings follow comments made by a coroner at an inquest into the deaths of three people after a fire at the Penhallow Hotel, Newquay. In June, Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon said she was writing to the Tourism minister Barbara Follett to express "serious concerns over the risks of future deaths" unless the Government supports hotels and guesthouses in fire safety.

The inquest into the fire in August 2007 heard that the hotel owners failed to update the fire detection system in line with new regulations despite advice. Staff from the Holdsworth Group, which owned the hotel, and its health-and-safety consultant all refused to answer questions about why the system went unchanged.

The inquest heard that the company had been warned four times it was trading illegally by not having its fire system updated. The Cornwall Fire Service also advised the hotel to upgrade 13 months before the blaze.

Fire safety expert Dr Bob Docherty, said: "I think there are a lot of hotels that aren't up to scratch. I know many fire authorities have written to every registered business in their area explaining the need to make an assessment. I am at a loss to understand why hoteliers say they know nothing about the regulation three years on."

Ken Day, the British Fire Consortium's training officer, described how one inspection of a Victorian, 32-bed hotel revealed it had no automatic fire detection system, poor emergency lighting and fire escapes where guests risked slipping. He said the problems were corrected but the owners believed they were covered by a safety certificate issued in the 1970s. He applauded UK tour operators for applying commercial pressure to improve safety in overseas hotels but said it was "imperative" that similar high standards were maintained in the UK.

Lib Dem communities spokesman Julia Goldsworthy said: "Far too few businesses are complying with fire safety regulations. Employees and customers are at risk because firms are not receiving support to ensure they are protected from the risk of fires."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, said: "We worked closely with the British Hospitality Association and other industry representatives to publicise the regulations and have published detailed guidance to help. We have no evidence they are not working."

Additional reporting Casey O'Brien and Alex Steger

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
tech
Sport
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
sport
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
Sport
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
News
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Inside Sales - OTE to £45,000

£25000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a leading supplier of bu...

Recruitment Genius: Installation Engineer - Driveway

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative, fast growing f...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Project Manager - Technical

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a Jun...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral