Safeguarding paradise

Safeguarding paradise

Remote resorts and hotel destinations offer unique tourism experiences providing a haven of tranquillity away from the vigour of urban living. Still, they also come with inherent risks, particularly regarding fire and emergency response reflects Peter Stephenson, BEng (Hons) Fire Engineering, FIFireE, Director, Fire Safety Division ME, Hydrock.

These onshore and off-shore retreats with nature’s beauty and serene landscapes make them desirable as tourist destinations but also pose unique challenges when it comes to ensuring the safety of guests and the protection of these idyllic locations.

There are major challenges that remote resorts face in developing robust fire and emergency response strategies including:

Geographical isolation: The allure of remote resorts often lies in their isolated and picturesque settings. Yet, this very isolation presents a challenge during emergencies, making it difficult for firefighting and emergency services to reach the location promptly. Evacuation plans must account for limited access routes, potentially requiring alternative transportation methods such as boats or helicopters.

Limited firefighting resources: Unlike urban areas, remote resorts may lack immediate access to firefighting resources. Traditional infrastructure like fire hydrants and nearby fire stations may be absent, necessitating on-site firefighting equipment and well-trained personnel. Resorts often need to invest in water storage tanks and explore innovative firefighting methods tailored to their unique surroundings.

Communication challenges: Remote locations frequently struggle with poor or non-existent network coverage. Effective communication during emergencies becomes a critical challenge, requiring resorts to establish reliable communication systems that can operate in adverse conditions. Satellite communication and other alternative methods become essential to maintain connectivity during emergencies.

Wildfire vulnerability: Resorts in nature-rich environments face an increased risk of wildfires. This threat demands specialized training for staff, comprehensive preventive measures, and early detection systems to mitigate potential damages. Investing in firebreaks, and defensible zones, and collaborating with local firefighting agencies become integral components of a resort’s wildfire preparedness.

Local expertise and community collaboration: Remote communities may lack specialized training in firefighting and emergency response. Resorts must proactively invest in training programs for both their staff and local residents. Establishing collaborative partnerships with local authorities and neighbouring communities can enhance overall emergency response capabilities.

Sustainable emergency response: Many remote resorts emphasise sustainability in their operations. Balancing effective emergency response with eco-friendly practices poses a unique challenge, requiring resorts to explore sustainable firefighting materials and methods. The adoption of green technologies and practices ensures that emergency response efforts align with the resort’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

Understanding the current and future risk profile of a resort will help establish the fire and emergency response requirements focusing on the equipment, personnel, vehicles (type and number) and the optimum location of emergency response centres (fire & medical) to deal with any potential incidents. An established methodology for the assessment of the resort risk profile can be found int NFPA 1300, titled “Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development,” which outlines a comprehensive approach to assessing and mitigating risks within a community.

  1. Community Risk Assessment (CRA): A process for the
    identification of risks, analysing potential hazards and threats
    in the community, considering factors such as geography,
    demographics, and infrastructure.
  2. Data collection: Gathering relevant data on historical incidents,
    community demographics, and existing resources or assessing
    the vulnerabilities likely to be found within the resort area.
  3. Stakeholder involvement: Collaboration involving key
    stakeholders, including residents, local government officials,
    emergency services, and community organisations, in the risk
    assessment process. Seeking input from various perspectives to
    ensure a comprehensive understanding of community risks.
  4. Risk prioritisation: Establishing criteria to prioritize identified
    risks based on factors like severity, frequency, and potential
    impact. Systematically ranking and categorizing risks to focus on
    the most critical concerns.
  5. Community Risk Reduction (CRR) Plan: Developing clear and
    measurable goals for risk reduction based on the identified
    priorities. Outlining specific strategies and actions to mitigate
    and manage the identified risks effectively.
  6. Resource allocation: Determining the resources required to
    implement the risk reduction strategies outlined in the CRR plan
    and ensuring an effective coordination of available resources,
    both within the community and through external partnerships.
  7. Implementation and monitoring: Executing the CRR plan
    by implementing identified strategies and actions.
    Regularly assessing the effectiveness of implemented measures,
    adjusting strategies as needed, and staying attuned to evolving
    community risks.
  8. Evaluation and feedback loop: It is important to periodically
    reassess community risks to ensure the relevance of the CRR
    plan. Continuous improvement is achieved by establishing a
    feedback loop for ongoing evaluation, learning from experiences,
    and refining strategies for future risk reduction efforts.
  9. Documentation and reporting: Adhering to standardized
    documentation practices to maintain a record of the risk
    assessment process and CRR plan and reporting the outcomes
    and communicating the results of the risk assessment, progress
    in risk reduction, and any lessons learned to stakeholders and
    the community is an important aspect of the process.

NFPA 1300 provides a systematic framework for communities to assess, prioritise, and reduce risks effectively, fostering a safer and more resilient environment. It’s crucial for remote hotels and resorts to carefully consider and address these risks to provide a safe and aesthetically pleasing experience for their guests. The aesthetics and guest experience play an important part in the overall resort design considerations. Consideration of the impact on the environment should feature highly in the overall master planning phase as building and maintaining remote resorts can often hurt the natural surroundings, potentially harming local ecosystems and landscapes.

Striking a balance between creating a luxurious atmosphere and preserving the authenticity of the remote location can be challenging.

When assessing overall safety factors, the accessibility to remote resorts may prove challenging as they may be difficult to reach, making it challenging for guests to get assistance in case of emergencies. Limited access to healthcare facilities in remote areas can pose a risk to guests’ well-being, especially in the event of medical emergencies and isolated resorts can be more susceptible to security risks such as theft, and assistance from local authorities may be delayed. The impact of natural disasters in remote locations can have a greater impact as the remoteness may increase the vulnerability and weight of the response required, which may pose a significant safety risk to guests. It’s crucial for remote hotels and resorts to carefully consider and address these risks to provide a safe and aesthetically pleasing experience for their guests.


To determine the fire and emergency response requirements for a project the CRA should assess the probability (likelihood) and consequences (impact) of the fire scenarios/hazards that have been identified through engaging with all stakeholders. The risk assessment estimates the chances (likelihood) of an incident happening, and if it does occur what are the likely impacts on the people, property/assets, the environment, business continuity and brand of the resort.

As highlighted above the CRR is as a process to identify and prioritize local risks, followed by the integrated and strategic investment of resources (emergency response and prevention) to reduce their occurrence and impact. NFPA 1300 recommends that a CRR program use a six-step approach towards development. In the risk assessment process, it is important to identify the various risks to the resort and/or surrounding area. For new developments, this may require a comparison of data from similar developments from around the world if local data is not available. The data will be used to identify both current risks and trends based on historical information. A security vulnerability assessment can also provide key information for consideration in emergency response planning.

There are a number of data elements that should be considered,
these might include:
incident dates and times
incident types
incident locations (address & any other location data; preferably,
latitude and longitude)
causes of ignition of fires; heat sources; areas of origin.
mortality rates (fire-related; trauma; other medically-related).
EMS mechanisms of injury and causes of illness; and EMS
provider “impressions” (i.e., diagnosis).
occupancy information.
response times of all units involved
rate of financial loss to value.

Established fire departments document their emergency incidents electronically using computerised records management systems (RMS). International fire statistics identifying trends in building fires can be referenced in the development of the resort CRA. The risk assessment should also include obtaining information on the people who are impacted by, or a part of, a scenario. Therefore, where data is not available assumptions on the community demographic profile should be made. Risk is often influenced by economic and social issues. Therefore, the community risk reduction process must address socioeconomic issues. The demographic composition of a community typically includes the statistical data of its population.

Based on the vision for the resort the typical client profile should be noted along with staff profiles and accommodation locations. Understanding the causal factors and populations at greatest risk will contribute to developing programmes to address these problems.

One component of conducting a community risk assessment is to identify specific target hazards within the resort service area. These are sometimes referred to as “critical facilities.” Examples of critical facilities might include:

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Emergency operations centers
  • Water/sewage treatment facilities
  • Airports
  • Communications systems
  • Roadways and critical infrastructure etc.

In addition, buildings with substantial value to the community (economic, historic, other), and other facilities that, if damaged or destroyed, would have a significant negative impact on the community.

Once all relevant information has been gathered and analysed, it will be necessary to evaluate, quantify, and determine the consequences; then prioritise the risks. The overall level of risk is dependent on the exposure to the hazard and the probability and consequences of an event occurring. The operational emergency response, the weight of response and associated firefighting personnel and equipment are a major factor in controlling and mitigating the risk.

Within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remote resort areas may be covered by the Saudi Civil Defense Regulations of Special Fire and Rescue Brigades, issued by Ministerial Resolution No. 8015 dated 08/03/1435 AH, to specify the controls and procedures for the establishment and formation of special fire and rescue brigades in both public and private facilities. The regulations detail the requirements for personnel, firefighting vehicles, fire stations and risk classification.

A major incident is an event or situation with a range of serious consequences which require special arrangements to be implemented by one or more emergency responder agencies. The escalation of a small incident into a major incident should also form part of the remote resort preplanning phase. A major incident would generally be beyond the scope of business-as-usual operations and is likely to involve serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or security at local, regional and potentially national levels. Major incidents can be natural (floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and volcano eruptions) or human-related (large-scale fires, explosions, building collapse, transportation incidents, active shooter incidents and release of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents) which can be either accidental, deliberate or overtly terrorist. Such an incident would be outside the resources located at, or near a remote resort, therefore the resort must be represented on the appropriate local, regional and national emergency planning forums to ensure a coordinated approach to the planning for and response to all potential major incidents within or near to the resort area.

In conclusion, determining fire and emergency response capabilities for remote resorts is a dynamic process. It involves continuous risk assessment, strategic resource allocation, and a commitment to maintaining high standards of emergency response. The delicate balance between the allure of these paradises and the need for safety requires a nuanced and adaptive approach. Remote resorts, by embracing comprehensive safety measures, not only safeguard their guests but also contribute to the preservation of the pristine environments that make them destinations of choice.