Hotel fires are among the most poignant disasters. Maybe it’s the intimate link between hotels and travel, the connection with places around the world or maybe it’s the sheer scale of loss and the innocence of those affected. When hotel fire safety is poorly controlled and people lose their lives, the sense of tragedy is palpable and it is felt around the world.
But tragedy is a teacher. Out of the worst fire events in history, some of the greatest truths have been learned. Hotels built now are moving towards a safer future and Coopers Fire is here to support them. But what has the fire safety industry learned from the past?
Seoul’s Daeyeonggak Hotel fire tragedy
Senior fire services officers from the Hong Kong Government flew to Seoul to confer with the South Koreans on fire prevention
On Christmas Day 1971, Daeyeonggak Hotel in Seoul, South Korea, suffered a gas explosion. The resulting fire killed 164 people and injured 63 people. It remains the single deadliest hotel fire incident in history.
Fire departments across the city of Seoul scrambled to the scene, but their ladders could barely reach the eighth floor. Tragically, 38 people jumped to their deaths, some clutching mattresses in an attempt to dampen their fall. Helicopters were dispatched to rescue those in floors numbered 9 to 22 and one man fell out of a helicopter during a rescue attempt.
Less than two weeks later, senior fire services officers from the Hong Kong Government flew to Seoul to confer with the South Koreans on fire prevention. Incredibly, the same renovated skyscraper caught fire again in 2010, although this time the incident was quickly brought under control.
Learning for fire safety officials
Many of the deaths were attributed to the poor design of the building and an apparent lack of basic fire safety. There were two internal staircases, designed to be used if the lifts failed. They were not intended as fire exits and the building had no other emergency staircases or protected means of escape.
The staircases acted as chimneys and filled with smoke during the fire. Walls between rooms were not fire resistant, hastening the spread of the blaze and even the most basic features, like battery powered exit signage wasn’t present.
flammable building materials lead to building fires
A distinct lack of compartmentalization and flammable building materials gave the fire ample fuel and air supply
The Daeyeonggak Hotel fire took place almost exactly 25 years after the fire at the Winecoff Hotel in the USA, which has previously held the unfortunate title of the deadliest hotel fire in history and remains the worst hotel fire incident in the United States of America.
Nothing, it seems, had been learned from that fire incident, a distinct lack of compartmentalization and flammable building materials gave the fire ample fuel and air supply, compounded by a lack of fireproof doors to the stairwells. Ironically, the Winecoff Hotel was advertised as ‘absolutely fireproof’ at the time of commencing operations.
Importance of compartmentalization and zone pressurization
These building fire incidents highlight the importance of a protected means of escape in hotels cannot be stressed enough and is a key component to saving precious lives. Compartmentalization and zone pressurization are two more vital ingredients for fire-safe building design in high-rise buildings.
Unfortunately, hotel fires continue to happen to this day. Coopers Fire recognizes the need for better fire safety and efficient building design, and strives to do their part in the field. The company is always developing, testing and improving their fire protection products, in order to stay at the cutting edge of fire safety.