Hotels are all about the guest experience, which is oftentimes associated with excellent service, amenities, a beautiful location and gorgeous rooms that make guests feel at home. However, one of the key elements of the perfect guest experience is something that doesn’t get as much mention as other fun features. It’s much more practical yet essential to ensure guest satisfaction — this element is safety.
Creating a comprehensive fire safety system starts with the basic passive protection elements required by law. Fire-rated doors in hotels are imperative to keeping guests safe and allowing them to safely evacuate the building in the case of an emergency.
What Fire-Rated Doors Do
The main purpose of a fire door system is to protect the occupants by giving them as much time as possible to safely exit a structure in the case of a fire.
A properly-installed fire door buys occupants valuable time to escape. These doors must be fire-resistant for a set amount of time—and that will depend on your local codes. A properly functioning fire door will keep flames from spreading to evacuation routes so people can get to safety without directly encountering the fire.
This also allows emergency services and personnel to quickly enter the building, locate the threat and put out the fire before it gets out of control.
Fire doors act as a barrier and keep the fire from progressing to other parts of the hotel. These barriers create smaller, more manageable zones that are easier to contain. This also minimizes property damage and the cost to repair or rebuild.
In many instances, fire doors are also required to be smoke resistant.
One of the biggest threats to occupant safety during a fire is actually the smoke. Smoke is disorienting and can prevent someone from safely escaping a burning building. Inhalation can cause long term internal damage or even be fatal. In fact, smoke inhalation accounts for 40% to 50% of fire-related fatalities.
Creating a comprehensive fire door system that is resistant to both fire and smoke is imperative to the safety of both hotel guests and staff.
Curtains vs. Doors
Fire doors are a necessary component to any commercial structure’s safety system. They must meet strict standards and pass rigorous tests and annual safety inspections to ensure that they are fully operational in case of an emergency.
Fire doors play a key role in the passive protection of hotel staff and guests.
But with the rise of open-concept layouts — particularly in commercial buildings like hotels — additional safety measures like smoke curtains are often put in place alongside fire doors for additional safety and ease of egress.
Smoke and fire curtains are often used as a way to section off large spaces in order to compartmentalize the space, assisting in preventing smoke and flames from spreading and damaging more of the building. They also help create protected egress paths for occupants to easily navigate.
Aesthetics play an important role in hotels, which is why many architects prefer a solution like smoke curtains that virtually disappear when not deployed. They are installed and stored discreetly in the ceiling, which also makes them difficult to tamper with. Fire and smoke curtains drop automatically and drape over any obstruction.
In historical venues, smoke curtains can often be strategically used to bring a building up to current codes without damaging the integrity of the original structure and design. They are also widely used as a way to bring elevators up to code without having to replace the elevator shaft doors.
While fire curtains do not replace fire doors, they work alongside one another to protect the building and its occupants from smoke and fire threats.
Where Fire Door Systems Are Used
Lobbies are frequently designed as larger, more dramatic spaces often intended to be as open and accommodating as possible for large groups of people. When it comes to fire safety, however, expansive, open spaces are particularly vulnerable and difficult to manage.
Fire doors are often required to separate the lobby from the rest of the building to prevent the spread of fire to and from the space. But preventing the lobby from being fully engulfed can be tricky.
Fire and smoke curtains can be used in lieu of fire doors and have become the go-to system for increased safety and extra protection of egress paths.
The curtains can be installed and stored in the ceiling and are virtually invisible when not in use. They drop automatically during a fire or smoke threat and are often used to section off the lobby to create protected paths to safety.
Event spaces are often large spaces, designed to be visually appealing and versatile enough for any event — from conferences to corporate parties to weddings.
Some may assume that all fire doors are bulky and boring in their design. But stylish fire door options are also available to match the event space aesthetics. Additionally, acoustic options are available to help dampen noise from large gatherings and keep the rest of the hotel guests unaffected by events happening very close to them.
Elevators act as chimneys, and during a fire emergency, smoke and fire can spread rapidly from floor to floor. With this in mind, elevator shafts need to be designed in such a way that they can be isolated during a fire.
Traditionally, architects have designed separate elevator lobbies that can be enclosed, but this can take up an extensive amount of space and intrude upon the hotel’s design aesthetics. Additionally, these lobbies are enclosed by fire doors which are subject to human error. There are many cases where fire doors have been propped open or have something placed in front of them so they don’t function properly.
Self-contained fire-rated boxes that surround the elevator have also been used, but these can be expensive — especially if existing elevators do not meet the current requirements.
Elevator openings are one of the most common places smoke curtains are installed. The smoke-rated curtains act as a gasketing system and work in conjunction with the already fire-rated elevator doors to prevent smoke from moving through the building via the elevator shaft.
Smoke curtains are installed above the door and are unnoticeable when tucked away. In case of a fire, they will deploy when smoke is actively being detected at that opening and seal off the elevator opening, preventing smoke from spreading between floors.
Room Entry Doors
Doors leading from hallways into rooms and doors that are a connection between rooms must be fire-rated and code compliant with the NFPA 80.
Occupants may not always be able to leave their rooms and evacuate. For instance, if the fire has started on their floor and there is no way to safely reach an exit, then guests may be forced to stay in their rooms until help arrives.
In these cases, it is important that the doors to the rooms be able to withstand smoke and flames long enough for emergency personnel to arrive on-scene and reach the trapped guests.
Special attention should be paid to areas that are a larger fire hazard, such as rooms with kitchens. The NFPA has found that roughly 50% of all fires in hotels and motels are caused by cooking equipment. Whether it is a commercial kitchen or a kitchenette inside a guest’s room, extra precautions should be taken in these spaces to prevent a fire from starting and spreading.
Ready to Update Your Fire System?
When curating the ultimate guest experience, don’t forget about the safety measures your hotel needs to have to ensure their well being — even in the worst of times.
SG Specialties is the leading provider of smoke and fire-rated curtains and other life safety products. Contact us to learn more about our complete line of smoke and fire-rated curtains and doors and see how we can help you find the right solutions for safety and comfort in your hotel.