A fire at The White Swan hotel, near Arundel, in March 2007, left ten guests trapped in their bedrooms. Although the guests were eventually rescued by firefighters the hotel’s former management company Mill House Inns Trading Ltd., were fined £25,000 plus £11,000 costs after pleading guilty to serious breaches of fire safety laws.
An investigation into the fire revealed a catalogue of poor fire safety management at the hotel including;
” The fire alarm panel had been switched to ‘silent’ mode, meaning warning sounders did not work when the blaze broke out. ” Staff did not receive adequate fire safety training. ” Fire alarms weren’t being tested correctly. ” Fire doors were wedged open. ” There was no suitable emergency plan in case a fire did break out.
The owners of the hotel at the time pleaded guilty to five separate charges and on each account were fined the maximum sum of £5,000. In addition to the fines, they also ordered to pay court costs of £11,071. Local Magistrates said company procedures for managing fire safety at the White Swan showed a total disregard for the safety of guests and staff, and that it was fortunate that none of the guests or staff had been killed or seriously injured.
Every business now has to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which includes the requirement for a fire risk assessment. For further information businesses are advised to contact their local Fire Service or check information on websites likewww.westsussex.gov.uk/fire or www.fire.gov.uk.
Darren Baird, Managing Director of Total Fire Services Ltd, one of the UK’s most prominent fire safety consultancy services, commented, “It was only down to the prompt response and professionalism of West Sussex County Council Fire & Rescue Service that real tragedy was averted”
“Under the requirements of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety order (RRFSO) 2005, it is the legal responsibility of hotel management to ensure that fire safety equipment is installed and regularly tested. By neglecting to regularly test fire safety alarms and equipment the Hotel management risked the lives of 19 guests and 4 staff.”
Darren added, “Failure to comply with fire safety regulations, as was the case with the White Swan, will undoubtedly lead to prosecution. Such action may be avoided as Total Fire Services can provide mediation services on behalf of clients with relevant enforcement authorities, helping avoid possible prosecution.”
Sussex Fire & Rescue Service would like to point out the hotel has changed ownership since the fire, and has recently been refurbished.