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Work 54 (2016) 461-471

DOI:10.3233/WOR-162332

IOS Press

461

Can fire safety in hotels be improved?

Results from the survey of a panel

of experts in Spain

Juan Carlos Rubio-Romero, Francisco Marquez-Sierra and Manuel Su ´ arez-Cebador ´ ∗

University of M´ alaga, M´ alaga, Spain

Received 27 February 2014

Accepted 15 January 2015

Abstract.

BACKGROUND: The hotel industry is an important driver of the European labourmarketwith over 250,000 hotels employing

some 2 million people. In Spain, 240 workers were injured by fires in hotels from 2004 to 2008. Fire is considered to be the

most important risk in the hotel industry, but the lack of an EU-wide data recording system for hotels makes it difficult to

give exact figures for fire events.

OBJECTIVE: We analysed the state of fire prevention systems in hotels in Spain with the aim of proposing strategies to

improve fire safety.

METHODS: A 10-item questionnaire was administered from 2007 to 2009 to 15 Spanish experts in fire safety. The questions

were measured using a Likert scale and classified into 4 sections: current state of installations, influence of establishment

characteristics, application of regulations and priority ranking of actions. Descriptive statistics summarized the data and

t-tests evaluated the agreement foreach statement in the questionnaire.

RESULTS: The statistical analysis showed homogeneity in the responses by the experts in all four categories: current state

of fire safety installations, influence of establishment characteristics, application of regulations, and priority of actions. There

was consensus among the experts over the necessity to improve the enforcement of regulations and also regarding the existence

of an association between the hotel category (in Spain they are ranked using a 1 to 5 "star" rating system) and the level of

fire safety; hotels with a higher category had higher levels of safety.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a need to identify ways to apply fire safety standards to older hotels so that they comply with new

regulations, to standardize regulations for different regions and countries, to improve the maintenance of installations and

equipment, to increase the effectiveness of inspections conducted by government bodies, and to raise the general awareness

of stakeholders involved in hotel fire prevention.

Keywords: Fire safety experts, hotel safety improvement, fire safety regulations, priority in fire safety actions

1. Introduction

Due to the economic importance of tourism for

countries such as Spain, a careful study of all of

∗Address for correspondence: M. Suarez, es University of ´

Malaga, E.T.S.I.Industriales, C/Dr. Ortiz Ramos, s/n (Teatinos), ´

29071 Malaga, Spain. Tel.: +34 633 888 093; E-mail: ´

suarez [email protected]

the factors that may affect its structure, development,

competitiveness, quality and image is called for. The

sector's importance in the Spanish economy is not

an isolated phenomenon; tourism, technology and

communications are at the forefront of world trade

[1].

According to data from the World Tourism Organisation, international tourist arrivals reached 983

1051-9815/16/$35.00 © 2016 - IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved

462 J.C. Rubio-Romero et al. / Can fire safety in hotels be improved?

Table 1

Top 10 countries ranking of international tourist arrivals

(2012-2013)

Rank Million

2012 2013

1 France 83.0 Not available

2 United States 66.7 69.8

3 Spain 57.5 60.7

4 China 57.7 55.7

5 Italy 46.4 47.7

6 Turkey 35.7 37.8

7 Germany 30.4 31.5

8 United Kingdom 29.3 31.2

9 Russian Federation 25.7 28.4

10 Thailand 22.4 26.5

Source: World Tourism Organization [2].

million in 2011 and continue to grow at a rate of

4%, underlining the importance of tourism worldwide. The impact that these figures have on some

countries, such as Spain, is clear considering that only

10 countries (see Table 1) account for almost half the

international tourism demand worldwide, and Spain,

with 60.7 million international tourists is ranked third

[2]. The magnitude and the strategic nature of this

sector in Spain is evident. In 2011 it accounted for

10.8% of GDP, provided net revenues of 32,425 million Euros, as measured in the balance of payments,

and also represented 12.2% of national employment

[3]. To fully understand the extent of this matter the

Spanish Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism's

Institute of Tourism Studies has provided some figures for the national hotel sector. In 2012 there were

19,149 hotels with 1,838,958 beds, and a total of

83,182,533 tourists, of which 43,047,776 were Spanish residents and 40,134,757 came from abroad [4].

This leads us to the conclusion that encouraging

fire protection safety in the tourism sector around

the world is vital not only for safety, but also economic security. In fact, fire damage and fire protection

worldwide represent significant costs that the Geneva

Association [5] classifies under six headings: damage

caused by fire, indirect damage, loss of life, cost of

fire-fighting organisations, costs related to fire insurance and fire protection for buildings. The World Fire

Statistic Bulletin provides global figures for the direct

economic costs and human losses caused by fires in

general (see Table 2).

If we focus on fires that have occurred in hotels,

available data show that human, material and economic losses are high both in Spain [6] and the rest

of theworld. For example, fire departments in theU.S.

responded to an estimated average of 3,700 structure

fires per year at hotel or motel properties from 2006

Table 2

Annual average estimate of the direct economic costs and human

losses from fires in the 2007-2009 period

Country Currency Millions Deaths

(x 100,000 hab.)

United States $ 16 1.17

United Kingdom £ 1,817 0.76

Germany D 2,95 0.6

France D 3,975 0.96

Italy D 3,133 0.46

Spain D 910 0.54

Source: Geneva Association: World Fire Statistic Bulletin [5].

to 2010 [7]. Annually these fires causedan average of

12 civilian deaths, 143 civilian injuries, and losses

of $127 million in direct property damage [7]. In

Europe the hotel industry is an important driver of

the labour market, with over 250,000 hotels, nearly

15 million beds and some 2 million workers. However,comparable data for fire events in all European

countries is not available. The absence of such data

can be attributed to the fact there is little incentive for

hotel owners and municipalities to provide this information since reported fires, particularly in holiday

areas, can damage the reputation of an establishment

or tourist destination [8]. Nevertheless, authors such

as Kemola recognize the important implications of

fires in European hotel establishments [9]. In the case

of Spain no conclusive data is available on the number

of fires in hotels. However, Ministry of Employment

and Social Security statistics show that 240 workers

from the hotel industry were injured in firesfrom 2003

to 2012 [10]. In that period 8 workers were seriously

injured, 5 were very seriously injured, and one died.

It should be noted that other authors have also recognized that the number of reported fires in hotels

only represents a small partof the total [8]. Whatever the case, it is clear that any building of this

nature, regardless of the category its been awarded,

for example in the commonly used 1 to 5 "star" rating system [11], is not completely safe from fire

and the final consequences will depend on its safetyconditions. Proof of this is the report presented

at the Fourth International Forum on Fire Safety

in Hotels [12], where different cases were presented that occurred in the summer of 2010 both

in Spain: Hotel Ritz***** (Madrid), Hotel Hesperia Playa Dorada**** (Tenerife), Hotel Miraolas***

(Asturias), Hotel Brasil** (Alicante), Hotel Balear

Beach* (Mallorca); and in the rest of the world:

Victoria Hotel in Skelmersdale (UK),Soma Hotel

(Iraq), Hotel Caribean Paradise**** (Mexico), Hotel

Patagonia Plaza**** (Argentina), Caribbean Hilton

J.C. Rubio-Romero et al. / Can fire safety in hotels be improved? 463

Hotel***** (Puerto Rico), Willard Intercontinental

Hotel (USA), and Imperial Hotel***** (Japan). The

variables that play a part in the causes of hotel fires,

how they spread and the steps taken to fight them

are many and varied [13]. They include the age, size

and type of premises, access and evacuation routes,

the characteristics of the building, the availability

of alarm systems and their type, fire-fighting equipment, evacuation or personal protection equipment.

It is not easy, therefore, to describe the state of fire

safety in the sector. However, the applicable legislation to prevent hotel fires is considered an essential

element to guarantee user and worker safety. Thus, in

its report of 27 June 2001 the European Commission

was already drawing attention to deficiencies in this

area by highlighting the failure to comply with EEC

Recommendation 86/666 on fire safety in hotels [14].

Yet it is interesting to note that fire safety requirements in hotels not only vary between the countries

in the European Union but also differ significantly

from those in countries like the United States. For

example, as an indication of the importance given by

the U.S. government to the presence of fire prevention measures in hotels, when travelling on official

business federal agents are required to spend at least

90% of travel nights at hotels listed in the federal

register of approved accommodation. Similarly, the

United States Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act (PL

101-391) was approved by the U.S. Congress in order

to save lives and protect hotel property. This law is

applicable to all places providing accommodation to

the public and requires all rooms in hotels more than

three stories high to be equipped with smoke detectors

and automatic sprinklers [15]. In contrast "sprinkler

systems are not common in European hotels" and,

according to Stewart Kidd of the British Automatic

Sprinkler Association, it is estimated that less than

3% of European hotels have automatic sprinkler systems in their rooms. A certain degree of unification

in legislative goals is, therefore, desirable [16].

In view of the frequency of fires in hotels and

the serious impact it can have in both human

and economic terms, research in this field is

clearly important. Thus, prior to the research presented in this report, the authors carried out a

field study of fire safety in hotels based on a

technical and documentary analysis of their fire

prevention systems. Among other points it was

concluded that safety standards were influenced

by the location of the hotel (cities, beach/tourist

resort or rural/isolated areas), but were not significantly affected by the hotel's category, based on

the 1 to 5 "star" rating system used in Spain [11].

It was also observed that as hotels increased in size,

fire prevention tended to be better [13].

In light of the results obtained in the previous study

mentioned above, it was decided that a quantitativequalitative study should be conducted, which would

enable us to compare the conclusions of the earlier

quantitative study with the opinions of experts in

the field, the ultimate goal being to prioritize certain strategic lines of action to improve fire safety

protection conditions in hotel establishments.

2. Material and methods

2.1. Study participants

The study was carried out using the staticized

group technique [17]. Methodologically, this technique is very similar to the Delphi method, but in the

staticized group technique there are no iterations and

the experts do not have access to the group'sresponses

to avoid any influence on their views [18]. Some comparative studies on the application of both methods

found no substantial differences in their degree of

accuracy [19, 20]. Other studies, however, showed a

significant increase in the use of the staticized group

technique as it is considered to be more accurate than

using the Delphi method [21, 22]. Based on this, it

was decided to use the staticized technique to conduct

this study.

The staticized group technique was applied in individual personal interviews with a panel of 15 experts

in fire safety. This number of experts is considered

sufficient when using group techniques to provide

qualitative-quantitative information [23].

The interviews were conducted by the authors of

this research from October 2007 to July 2009.

It was considered desirable for the experts to be as

representative as possible and to belong to different

groups in the fire prevention field, both from the viewpoint of their training and professional experience

and their geographical origins [24]. The objective

was to obtain a broad view of the situation in Spain

from the perspective of representative professional

groups which are directly linked to fire prevention.

These include: Technical Experts working for the

Spanish central government and the governments of

Spain's autonomous regions, Technical Managers of

monitoring bodies authorised by the government to

conduct inspections of fire prevention systems, Technical Managers of private companies engaged in fire

464 J.C. Rubio-Romero et al. / Can fire safety in hotels be improved?

prevention, Technical Officers from different Fire

Extinction and Rescue Services (SEI), Safety Project

Heads from engineering companies engaged in fire

prevention, University staff of recognised standing

in the field of fire prevention and Managers and

technical staff belonging to professional fire fighting

associations.

Thus, the safety experts were chosen based on the

following criteria: qualifications in the area of fire

safety, more than 10 years professional experience in

fire safety, position held is related to fire safety and

geographical location of fire safety experience.

The fire safety experts were approached through

personal contacts in different public administrations

and the 15 professionals in Table 3 agreed to participate in this research. The personal interviews and the

questionnaires were conducted from 2007 to 2009.

2.2. Study instruments

A questionnaire was specifically designed for the

purpose, based on the results obtained in the previous

research study [13]. This previous research involved

visits to a total of 146 hotels in 2004. In order to

examine the fire safety of these facilities we made

use of the official checklist of the responsible Spanish

administrative body, which contains the documentary

and technical requirements contained in the current

fire protection regulations for buildings in Spain.

The questionnaire (see Table 4) contained 10 questions classified into 4 groups. The first nine were

answered by the experts on a scale of 1 to 5, based

on the Likert scale (1: "strongly disagree"; 2: "disagree"; 3: "neutral"; 4: "agree"; 5: "strongly agree").

The tenth question asked them to rank by order of

importance a series of measures to improve fire safety

in hotels.

2.3. Study design

This research was conducted by interviewing

human subjects and a combined quantitative and

qualitative approach was applied [24, 25]. The

authors of the study completed the quantitative part of

the questionnaire based on the answers provided by

the participating experts who were asked to respond

using a 5 point Likert scale [26]. The experts also

provided free-text responses for each question, which

were transcribed by the researchers in order to conduct a qualitative analysis [27, 28] that would help

strengthen the quantitative results.

2.4. Statistical analysis

SPSS V.15.0 was used for the statistical analysis.

First a descriptive analysis was applied withmeasures

of central tendency and location including mean,

median and mode, plus measures of variability and

dispersion including the standard deviation and quartiles. Subsequently, an inferential analysis based on

a t-test was conducted to check the agreement with

the statements of each questionnaire item under these

hypothesis:

• Ho: Expert agree/strongly agree with the statement.

• H1: Expert do not agree/strongly agree with the

statement.

The statistical significance threshold was set at

p < 0.05.

3. Results and discussion

The results of the descriptive statistical analysis

ofthe responses obtained from the interviews shows

a high degree of consistency among the expert with

regard to the current state of fire safety installations

(items 1 to 3), influence of establishment characteristics (items 4 to 7), application of regulations (items

7 to 9) and priority of actions (item 10). These results

are shown in Table 5.

The experts agreed or strongly agreed only with the

statements related to the application of regulations, in

the relation higher hotel category-higher safety, and

in the need for regular inspections with penalties in

the event of non-compliance.

Moreover, a selection of comments made by the

experts during the interviews are included to better illustrate the main findings and to facilitate the

reading and understanding of the results.They have

been classified into 4 subsections: current state of

installations, influence of establishment characteristics, application of regulations and priority ranking

of actions.

3.1. Current state of installations

Regarding whether respondents consider fire

safety in Spanish hotels to be satisfactory, the median

and mode is three, very close to the mean (2.87).

This result confirms the opinion that the situation

is only minimally acceptable. The experts point

out that, although the application of the regulations

J.C. Rubio-Romero et al. / Can fire safety in hotels be improved? 465

Table 3

List of experts consulted

Experts Qualification Post-Experience

Expert 1 University specialist in safety

management.

Head of Corporate Safety Projects and Asset Protection at BELT IBERICA

SA1.

Lecturer in fire prevention systems in the Master's course in Global Safety

organised by BELT IBERICA SA and the European University, Madrid.

Expert 2 Architectural Technician Station Officer, Fire Prevention and Extinction and Rescue Service,

Barcelona City Council

Expert 3 Technical Industrial Engineer,

Engineer in Fire Prevention,

Masters in Fire Prevention

Engineering.

Fire brigade instructor dealing with various areas, especially the behaviour

of fires.

APTB2 representative in the SAFEHOTEL project.3

Co-author of the SAFEHOTEL training CD.

Expert 4 Merchant Navy Captain. General Secretary of the APTB.

Head of Bilbao Fire Service.

Author of La Protecci ´ on Contra Incendios en la industria (Fire Prevention

in Industry).

Expert 5 Industrial Diploma, Terrassa, and

Industrial Engineering Degree,

Barcelona

General Manager of Colt Espana SA ˜ 4 since 1989

Corporate Director of Grup Acieroid since 2007.

Chairman of Tecnifuego-Aespi, 1996 - 2002.

Expert 6 Head of Fire Service and Civil Protection, Cuenca City Council.

Expert 7 Architectural Technician and Higher

Diploma in Occupational Risk

Prevention.

Occupational Risk Prevention Technician.

Technical Specialist in Fire Extinction and Rescue Service, Vitoria City

Council

Contributor to the journal Riesgos Laborales (Occupational Risk).

Expert 8 Architect Head of Operations Division, Barcelona Fire Service.

Head of Fire Prevention Division and General Services, Barcelona

Speaker on fire prevention regulations and co-writer of two guides to

drawing up emergency plans.

Expert 9 Graduate Industrial Engineer Technical Officer, Malaga Royal Fire Brigade.

Vice-Secretary of Spanish Professional Association of Technical

Specialists in Firefighting.

Member of the Technical Committee drawing up the Basic Document on

Fire Safety for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport's Technical

Building Code.

Expert 10 Doctorate in Industrial Engineering

and Degree in Chemistry.

Director of Valencia City Council Fire Service.

Lecturer in Fire Dynamics.

14 years in fire service.

Fire investigator (Windsor, Nufri, Guadalajara, Benalmadena Waste ´

Treatment Plant, etc.)

Art´ıcles in Fire Technology.

Author of the book Din´ amica de fuego: Origen y causa de los incendios

(Fire Dynamics. Origin and Cause of Fires).

Expert 11 Head of Industrial Product Control Service, Sub-Directorate General for

Quality and Industrial Safety, Ministry for Industry, Tourism and Trade

Expert 12 Graduate Industrial Engineer and

Graduate in Economics.

Technical Officer, Malaga Royal Fire Brigade.

Expert 13 Graduate Industrial Engineer Head of SPEIS, Marbella.

Expert 14 University Expert in Criminology. Sergeant in Fire Service, Station Officer, City of Granada Fire Service.

Higher Diploma in Industrial

Electricity and Electronics.

Higher Diploma in SAP.

Expert 15 Architectural Technician and

Graduate in Law.

Fire Service Inspector, Head of Government of Catalonia Fire Service.

Lecturer at Barcelona Autonomous University. Took part in drawing up

the basic building regulations fire prevention code (NBE-CPI/96).

Contributor to numerous working groups on fire prevention in hotels.

and the theoretical initial state of the systems are

acceptable when they are new, issues such as dayto-day management, raising awareness of fire safety,

systems maintenance and staff training do not

reach the minimum standard necessary to maintain

those initial conditions. Some experts are especially

critical of the "perceived sense of safety", pointing

out that "in a real emergency these systems do not

466 J.C. Rubio-Romero et al. / Can fire safety in hotels be improved?

work because they are inadequate, staff are not properly trained, and buildings are badly designed, that

is, they are not correctly compartmentalised and they

are unable to dissipate smoke, gases and heat in the

event of a fire".

Regarding the correct design and use of the fire

prevention systems in hotels and their maintenance,

the results are underscored by the observations made

by the experts. They insist that greater attention must

be paid to system design and implementation, and

J.C. Rubio-Romero et al. / Can fire safety in hotels be improved? 467

relevant government bodies need to apply stricter

monitoring and inspection measures. They point

to "government bodies' inability to monitor adequately" and indicate that "system maintenance is not

always carried out by the best companies but by those

which provide the cheapest service". These findings

echo the conclusions of the previous study by the

authors of this paper [13], which found that 20% of

the systems analysed showed maintenance defects in

fire hose cabinets and 22.6% of them lacked smoke

detectors in bedrooms and corridors.

3.2. Influence of establishment characteristics

The fourth question asked whether the respondents agreed that fire prevention systems in hotels

and their maintenance vary according to their type

and location (cities, beach/tourist resorts, or more

isolated areas) and the fifth question asked specifically if the best conditions were found in cities.

The responses were very similar in the two cases,

with a mean value of 3.07, although they are more

spread out than in the case of the first question in

the survey. Apart from the quantitative assessment

given by the experts, their opinions centred on the

fact that although the regulations are the same for

everybody, their implementation varies from one scenario to another. According to the experts, this largely

depends on the availability of adequate technical and

human resources in the government bodies responsible for system surveillance and monitoring where

the hotel is located. In this regard differences can

be observed between large municipalities with more

resources at their disposal and small towns where

these are limited or even non-existent. A majority

of the experts considered that city hotels were problematic because access and evacuation were difficult,

their functioning and layout were complex, and some

of them occupied very high buildings. Some felt

that "small towns have fewer material and technical resources, which makes it impossible to monitor

systems thoroughly", while others thought that "the

greatest difficulties regarding access to hotels and

their evacuation are in cities". One aspect that the

experts consider crucial is the hotel management's

degree of safety awareness. They emphasized the fact

that "large hotel chains are more concerned about

these questions".

Question six asked the experts if they believed

that systems for fire prevention and their maintenance

were better in hotels with a larger number of rooms

and a majority disagreed with this statement (only 6

out of 15 agreed or strongly agreed). They felt that

the state of fire prevention systems depended more

on the owners' interest than the size of the hotel.

It must also be considered that larger hotel buildings may not favour fire safety for several reasons:

greater distances must be covered during evacuation,

and higher and larger buildings in general make dealing with a possible fire more difficult. However, they

also pointed out that their greater size does oblige

them to have systems to protect the building against

large fires. At the same time the experts said that in

many cases large hotels belong to prestigious companies and large hotel chains. In order to maintain

their standing or to be able to sign contracts with

tour operators, they often feel obliged to have effective and properly maintained fire prevention systems,

leading to better fire safety conditions. Consequently,

the experts emphasise that the awareness of the owners and the attitude of the hotel's managers have a

greater influence than the size of the hotel.

For question seven, which asked if they agreed

with the statement that the higher the category of the

hotel (number of stars), the better the fire prevention system will be, the average of the responses was

3.67. The median and mode corresponded to answer

4 ("agree"), chosen by 9 out of the 15 people interviewed. The experts made a number of additional

comments on this question, pointing out that "a higher

category hotel necessarily involves the existence of

more services and larger premises (kitchens, saunas,

shops, event rooms, etc.), which implies the existence

of additional risks". Another point mentioned previously is that large hotels, which in many cases are part

of big hotel chains, have better systems because they

have a specific interest in offering good facilities. It

was also pointed out that the proper maintenance of

the systems, which is a basic factor in fire safety, is

often conducted more efficiently in higher category

hotels, although "this does not mean that all lower category hotels do not adequately maintain the condition

of their fire safety systems". Higher category hotels

will be more inclined to participate in the Safe hotel

programme, in which independent inspectors assess

the suitability of their safety systems. This fact would

support the idea that higher category hotels have better

firepreventionsystems.Manyhotelsindifferentcountries have taken part in this initiative, financed by the

EuropeanCommissionviatheLeonardoDaVinciprogramme. Most of them belong to major hotel chains,

andareusuallyhighercategoryhotels,reflectingatendency for such hotels to show more concern and be

more proactive concerning fire safety.

468 J.C. Rubio-Romero et al. / Can fire safety in hotels be improved?

3.3. Application of regulations

Question eight asks whether respondents believe

it is necessary for all hotels, including those in old

buildings, to be obliged to comply with the latest

legislation concerning fire safety. In Spain this is

the new Technical Building Code, enacted in 2006

[29]. It should be pointed out that this particular

legislation allows greater flexibility in the design of

buildings, as it moves from strictly prescriptive regulations to regulations based on performance, inspired

by the European Union's New Approach Resolution

and in line with current construction trends in neighbouring countries. Most of the experts agreed with

the statement, making this question the one with

the highest level of consensus in the study. Their

legal and technical comments on this question and

those concerning safety indicate that applying the

rules retroactively could conflict with some fundamental principles of constitutional law. The experts

also pointed out that it seems logical to favour other

principles such as general interest or the protection

of life and safety, rather than regulations which cannot be applied retroactively. They emphasised that

this retroactive application could be implemented in

a similar way to occupational risk prevention, where

equipment must often be brought into line with regulations even when it was manufactured before the

regulations were approved. They thus consider that

themost appropriate policy, in the general interest and

to minimize the impact on the owners and managers

of buildings, would be to customize the modifications

for each hotel. This would involve the implementation of important technical advances in fire safety

from the Technical Building Code [29], but not if

they are excessively complex or technically unviable.

For example, Technical Building Code specifications

for the main structure of the building, the maximum

allowed area for each fire sector, or evacuation routes

and ceiling heights may run into major difficulties

if they are to be implemented in existing buildings.

In such cases the view of the experts is that supplementary measures should be studied. These should

be imaginative and adapted to individual cases with

a view to providing equivalent performance without

the need for impossible changes. In connection with

these comments, question ten below asked the experts

to prioritize measures for fire safety. The majority

indicated that the top priority should be compliance

by hotels with current regulations, highlighting the

need for hotel premises and their fire safety systems

to be in line with new legislation.

Answers given by the experts to the ninth question regarding whether compliance with regulatory

requirements for fire prevention in hotels varies from

one place to another, depending on how strictly they

are applied by the relevant government body, also

showed a high degree of consensus. Of the 15 respondents, 7 declared that they "strongly agreed" with the

statement, 5 of them were in agreement and only 3 of

them were indifferent to the statement. In their comments they identified various factors related to this

issue. The first has to do with legislation; although

the basic legislation is the same for all, each region,

and even each local council, can draw up additional

requirements. This can lead to situations in which

different authorities "play a greater or lesser role in

applying regulations and ensuring compliance with

them", thus generating a certain inequality in how

strictly the regulations are enforced. Another aspect

is the human and technical resources the relevant government body has at its disposal to verify projects,

their implementation, and subsequent monitoring.

The experts appear to agree that when the fire service is involved in the process of granting permits,

instead of other technical bodies which are not fire

specialists, the regulations are more strictly applied.

Indeed, there are experts who consider that "generally speaking Spanish government bodies are unable

to exercise sufficient control". The experts consulted

also generally agree that the correct design, implementation and maintenance of systems should be part

of safety awareness in the sector. The comprehensive,

permanent task of monitoring and inspection should

not be left to government bodies. An appeal has to be

made for responsibility by the sector itself (employers and staff). It should be emphasized that this is a

matter that concerns everyone and that better safety

standards make businesses more competitive.

3.4. Priority ranking of actions

Question ten asked the experts to rank by order

of importance a list of ways to improve fire safety

in hotels. The five options proposed were ordered as

follows:

1. Make sure all hotels meet current legal requirements.

2. Strict monitoring of system maintenance.

3. Appropriate ongoing training for hotel staff.

4. Regular simulations or fire drills.

5. Regular inspection with penalties in the event of

non-compliance.

J.C. Rubio-Romero et al. / Can fire safety in hotels be improved? 469

Where 1 is "Highest priority" and 5 is "Lowest

priority".

The following points in individual responses were

also of interest.

1. The responses, as reflected in the standard deviation values shown in Table 5, show a wider spread

than for the other questions. It can be seen that all

of the answers have similar mode values, which

may be related to the different training and professional perspective of the participants. It can

also be observed that certain professional groups

place special emphasis on aspects which are seen

as secondary by other respondents. For example,

those experts whose work involves the extinction

of fires stress the importance of conducting simulations or drills, improving the training of hotel

staff and strictly monitoring the maintenance of

fire prevention systems.

2. As has already been mentioned, the top priority

from the list to improve fire safety is compliance

by hotels with current regulations; making sure

they apply the stricter standards to bring them

into line with the safety expectations of society. As pointed out above, this coincides with

the results from question eight which asked if

all hotels should be obliged to comply with current legislation. The responses to that question

showed the highest level of agreement for all of

the questions in the survey.

A limitation of this study is that this research is

based on the opinions of Spanish fire safety experts.

The specific regulations [30, 31] and circumstances

in other countries [32, 33] could lead to different

research results. To minimize this limitation it would

be necessary to conduct equivalent research in other

countries that would make it possible to draw global

conclusions aimed at promoting international regulations to improve fire safety in hotels.

4. Conclusions

The majority view of the experts is that the gradual

modification of older hotels to comply with current regulations is essential to improve fire safety

in those buildings. Since the retroactive nature of

the legislation may be contrary to fundamental legal

principles and not feasible in economic and technical terms, but at the same time the right to effective

protection against fires needs to be guaranteed, relevant measures which can be technically and legally

Table 5

Experts' responses to questions 1 to 10

Questions

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Regulations Training Simulations Maintenance Inspections

Average 2.87 2.93 2.87 3.07 3.07 2.47 3.67 4.53 4.27 2.60 3.07 3.13 3.00 3.2

Mode 3 3 3 4 3-4 2-3 4 5 5 1 4 5 2-4 5

Standard deviation 0.83 0.80 0.92 1.49 1.16 1.13 1.05 0.64 0.8 1.55 1.39 1.55 1.13 1.57

Quartiles 25 2 2 2 1 2 2 3 4 4 1 2 2 2 2

50 (median) 3 3 3 4 3 2 4 5 4 2 3 3 3 3

75 3 4 4 4 4 3 4 5 5 4 4 5 4 5

Confidence

interval of 95%

Lower 2.40 2.49 2.36 2.24 2.42 1.84 3.09 4.18 3.82 1.74 2.30 2.27 2.37 2.33

Upper 3.33 3.38 3.37 3.89 3.71 3.09 4.25 4.89 4.71 3.46 3.83 3.99 3.63 4.07

T-test t -5.87 -5.17 -5.17 -3.29 -4.03 -7.36 -1.00 -2.10 -1.87 -3.50 -2.61 -2.16 -3.42 -1.98

d.f. 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14 14

p value 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.005 0.001 0.000 0.334 0.054 0.082 0.003 0.020 0.048 0.004 0.068

470 J.C. Rubio-Romero et al. / Can fire safety in hotels be improved?

implemented need to be conscientiously analysed and

identified. Technical progress in this field may make

this task easier.

In the case of regulations, it is necessary to avoid

variations between different regions. In Spain, different safety standards exist in different parts of the

country.A study of legalmechanisms and processes is

therefore needed to ensure that this does not happen,

or that the effects are minimized.

To deal with the defective maintenance of systems and equipment, steps should be taken to ensure

that the legally stipulated maintenance programmes

for fire prevention systems are complied with. This

requires more effective inspection programs and,

where appropriate, penalties must be imposed by the

responsible authorities. An in-depth analysis of the

situation is needed to identify ways to improve the

work of the inspection bodies.

The lowest degrees of consensus were found with

regard to the influence of hotel establishment characteristics on fire safety conditions. Thus, according

to the experts, priorities for actions based on hotel

location, size or category could not be conclusively

identified.

Nevertheless, we consider that it is necessary to go

beyond mere formal compliance. Measures should be

identified to help increase the awareness of all of the

parties involved, and which make fire safety an integral part of the organisational structure of hotels at all

levels, management, staff, suppliers, customers, etc.

One such measure, which we consider essential, is

to provide adequate, permanent training for staff in

fire safety, emergencies and evacuation, so that their

response to any such event is safe, quick and coordinated. Other measures, such as regular simulations

and participation in fire safety quality certification

programmes, are also effective ways to improve fire

safety.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to report.

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