USATODAY.com - Better fire safety in hotels saves lives
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Cendant, which has nine hotel brands including Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada, Super 8 and Wyndham Worldwide, says all its hotels are individually owned and operated and that the owners are required to comply with applicable fire-safety laws.
Various budget hotel chains didn't respond to USA TODAY questions about whether their hotels have sprinkler systems. Microtel Inns & Suites equips all its rooms and public areas with them, says U.S. Franchise Systems spokeswoman Barbara Wiener-Fischhof. Of 98 Hawthorn Suites — another U.S. Franchise Systems brand — 88 have sprinklers, she says.
Sprinklers rare in Europe
In September, Margy Klein, 46, of Ellicott City, Md., and Jean Gibbs, 62, of Owings Mills, Md., tried to escape a fire at the Best Western Richmond Hotel & Convention Centre in Richmond, British Columbia. They died of smoke inhalation.
The vacationing women were staying in an older part of the hotel not equipped with sprinklers. A newer part of the hotel had them.
Brad Klein, Margy Klein's brother, says it's wrong to have only some parts of a hotel equipped with sprinklers. He says the hotel had one section with sprinklers and two others without them: "It's like a shell game with a pea under one cup and nothing under two."
If there had been sprinklers, "It's possible we would not have had fatalities," says Bob Furlong, the Richmond Fire Department's chief fire inspector.
Richmond building codes were changed in 1998 to require new buildings to have sprinklers. Hotel general manager Craig McBride says the area that burned was older. The hotel meets all current building codes and regulations, he says. Air Canada, which provided the women with the rooms after their flight from Vancouver airport was delayed, declined comment.
Sprinkler systems are rare in European hotels. In April, 24 were killed and about 60 injured in a fire at a central Paris hotel without sprinklers, the Paris-Opera Hotel.
Stewart Kidd of the trade group British Automatic Sprinkler Association estimates that less than 3% of European hotels have sprinkler systems in each room. He says France, Italy, Austria and Portugal each have fewer than 10 such hotels, the United Kingdom fewer than 100, and Germany fewer than 50.
Sprinkler requirements vary, says Alan Brinson of the European Fire Sprinkler Network, a non-profit group that promotes sprinkler use for safety and property protection. Norway, for example, requires sprinklers in new hotels with multiple stories. Other European governments set various heights — 45 feet in Hungary, 75 feet in Berlin and Frankfurt, and 90 feet in Spain
at which new hotels must be equipped with in-room sprinklers. "Existing hotels are usually
grandfathered and can be very unsafe," says Brinson.
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