Understanding linen fire risk

Bedroom linens

Nearly 8,000 eating and drinking establishments report a fire each year, according to data tabulated by the National Fire Protection Association, causing an annual average of $246 million in direct property damage. On top of that, an estimated 3,900 hotel and motel fires are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated 15 deaths, 150 injuries and $76 million in property loss. Whether you operate a restaurant, hotel, spa or other hospitality establishment, your business is at risk for laundry fires and the associated costs. Next to guestrooms, laundry areas are the leading areas where fires can occur. Twenty-eight percent of the items first ignited include “soft goods, wearing apparel category,” which include bedding, clothing and linens. When hot clothes or towels are left in a dryer or piled on a bed, traces of residual oils can continue to generate heat. Accumulation of the excess heat, under certain conditions, will lead to ignition of the fabric. Laundry room fires aren’t limited to restaurants—hotels and spas are at risk, too. Even if the fire doesn’t begin in a laundry room, fires affecting linens can seriously affect your business. The CFO of a luxury spa in central Texas reported that a flickering bulb ignited a fire in the storage room. The effects wreaked havoc on the laundry, forcing the spa to look elsewhere for laundry service. Due to hurricanes on the Gulf Coast at that time, no existing laundry services could accommodate the spa’s needs in that area of Texas. The spa hired additional employees, and sent those employees off site to a laundromat. This resulted in the use of less efficient noncommercial-grade machines and the purchase of low chemical laundry soap to ensure linen quality was the same as before the fire. Additionally, the laundromat required the spa employees to use quarters for the first three months, which the CFO claims was one of “The most unbelievable thing[s] I’ve ever done in my whole life.” In short, understanding the potential for linen fires, and being prepared after one occurs, will facilitate the remediation process and minimize liability for your business. Kendall Kelly Hayden, a member of Cozen O’Connor, P.C., in Dallas, focuses her practice on transportation and hospitality law. She regularly represents various types of transportation companies, resorts, clubs, hotels, motels, restaurants, bars and their insurers in litigation.