4 reasons why centralized fire-protection reporting is vital

In today’s saturated hospitality industry, hotels and hospitality venues must attract customers by providing a widening array of features aimed at the comfort and convenience of guests. While amenities such as in-house spas, rooftop clubs and five-star dining options may influence the customer’s decision when selecting accommodations, there is also an underlying expectation and obligation that all facilities will provide an appropriate level of safety. 

However, according to the most recent information available from the U.S. Fire Administration, “each year, there are an estimated 3,900 hotel and motel fires that cause 15 deaths, 100 injuries and $100 million in property losses.”

Although most hotel owners or managers have limited experience with fire- and life-safety systems, they are charged with the strict compliance of their facilities. And in order to maintain compliance with regulations, reduce the chance of any fire incidents and stay within budget, many are turning toward centralizing the inspection, testing and maintenance of fire- and life-safety systems. Some of these essential systems include fire alarms, fire sprinklers, exit/emergency doors and fire extinguishers.

There are numerous advantages to the centralization of ITM services for fire- and life-safety systems. For example, managing information at a corporate level rather than at a site level provides improved data visibility and tracking. Centralization also allows easier access to information during audits or inquiries from Authorities Having Jurisdiction.

1. Faster Access to Crucial Data

When time counts, how quickly can fire- and life-safety systems’ data be accessed? 

Many of the adopted fire protection codes have provisions which hold a building owner responsible for the execution of proper ITM services of their onsite fire-protection systems. When hotel owners or managers operate locations throughout a state, across the country or around the globe, accessing data from multiple sites can prove to be a time-consuming challenge.

In the past, “one location, one provider” has been the most common approach. Using a single location method, each hotel manager is responsible for the proper maintenance of his or her venue’s fire-pprotection systems, as well as the maintenance of the correct, required documentation of these services. (A second option is slightly modified model, whereby one service provider offers services within a region or state.)

However, should there be a problem with one of the fire-safety systems or if a location experiences a fire loss event, the corporate office may not have immediate access to vital ITM records including inspection dates, any testing that was performed or important maintenance needs which were cited. Additionally, if records are kept onsite where the fire loss occurred, there may be nothing left to review until duplicates can be obtained from the fire-protection service provider.

When using a centralized system, all ITM records are retained by the provider in one location, such as a customer portal. All stakeholders, from individual hotel managers to C-suite leaders, can retrieve the data 24/7/365. This type of portal can provide access to testing and inspection reports, repair notes, work order activity and maintenance completion information. A centralized data portal provides reassurance that inspection information will be available whenever needed and can alleviate time-consuming issues with requests of records by AHJs.

2. Reporting Consistency

Using a centralized system also eliminates any potential variation in reporting data. The reporting methods of fire- and life-safety providers can vary across the country. Inconsistencies in quality, thoroughness and documentation between different providers, or even among various branch offices, can generate exposure and potential litigation risk in the aftermath of an emergency.

3. A One-Call Solution

When a centralized fire and life safety reporting system is enlisted, both individual hotel managers and the corporate office are provided with a single phone number for all fire protection services, regardless of where they are located. Whether the concern is testing for fire alarms, the inspection date for extinguishers or the maintenance of fire sprinklers, one call can answer all questions.

A centralized option also enables a smooth transition as hotel managers and associates transfer from one venue to another.

4. Cost-Control Benefits

Not only can centralized reporting provide the hotel owner or corporate office with greater access, it also can help control cost factors. A centralized repository of data allows the corporate office to stay apprised of which services are needed by location and when, helping to reduce any overspending. Such a system may also allow services to be adjusted, so that expenses can be better balanced throughout the year.

Additionally, a centralized system provides leverage when negotiating ITM services for multiple sites. The greater the number of locations, the better the ability to secure a substantial quantity discount.

While abandoning the “one location, one provider” model may require a change in thinking, the benefits far outweigh any potential growing pains. Hotel owners and corporations can take advantage of economies of scale, keeping costs in check, while ensuring, with the most accurate reporting, that their guests, employees and properties remain safe and secure.

Tom Parrish is Telgian Fire Safety's vice president of compliance and training and president of the National Automatic Fire Alarm Association.