With hotels around the world, Marriott works in areas with varying building codes and differing infrastructure while focusing on Marriott's loss objectives. Marriott owns less than 10 Marriott branded hotels and therefore works closely with numerous owners around the world. The vast majority of Marriott hotels are either operated by Marriott under long-term management contracts or operated by third parties under authority of a license granted by Marriott, but all are subject to Marriott's brand standards.

Marriott customers expect consistently excellent customer service and quality hotels wherever their travels take them. Part of meeting those expectations is focusing on standards for a safe environment at Marriott hotels around the world.


John F. "Sonny” Scarff led Marriott's Fire Protection & Life Safety Department for 38 years beginning in 1974. Scarff and his team shaped and refined Marriott's fire protection and life safety standards. These standards evolved based on years of accumulating experience, advancing technologies and progressing codes and standards. The current Marriott standard, known as Module 14, references several NFPA standards, including NFPA 101,1 NFPA 13,2 NFPA 72,3 and NFPA 92.4 Module 14 also includes submittal requirements, testing performance criteria, and additional sprinkler system, fire alarm system, smoke control system, and kitchen hood suppression system requirements. In some cases, the Marriott requirements are more stringent than the requirements of the jurisdiction where the hotel is located.

When Scarff started with Marriott, the company had 15 hotels. As the company grew, it not only added hotels but other ventures. Over Scarff 's career, he worked on restaurants, cruise ships, theme parks and assisted living facilities. And Marriott continues to evolve, with current focus primarily on the hospitality business.

As the number of hotels increased each year, it was necessary to hire associates to meet with owners and local authorities, review drawings and inspect hotels. In addition to working on new hotels, an annual inspection program for existing hotels was started for the Courtyard by Marriott brand in the early 1990s. This program included annual sprinkler and fire alarm system inspections while providing building audits and training for hotel employees. This inspection program has grown to all Marriott-managed hotels in the United States. Now, the fire protection team consists of fire protection engineers, mechanical engineers, NICET-certified plan reviewers, fire inspectors and fire protection specialists.

When Marriott developed its first hotel outside of the United States, company leadership knew it was important to draw upon the established standards of quality and safety. But, implementing standards in other parts of the world where different codes and standards are adopted is challenging.


Marriott has more than 600 properties outside of the United States, and nearly 70 percent of Marriott hotels under construction are outside of North America. Working in each new country or jurisdiction has its own learning curve. The Marriott team of engineers and specialists begins the process by meeting with the hotel owner and its design team. Marriott standards are reviewed, and Marriott representatives become familiar with the project and learn about potential areas of conflict between the standards and the local requirements. In some cases, the conflict may not be with a code, but with a common practice in the area.

For example, while working on a hotel under construction in Doha, Qatar, the Marriott fire protection representative was initially informed that to program the fire alarm system to initiate a general evacuation alarm upon activation of a single alarm device would be in conflict with local requirements. After many discussions regarding this issue, it was decided that the representative and the project engineer would meet together with the local authority, the Civil Defense Department in the State of Qatar, for resolution. When the Marriott representative explained what they were proposing and the reasons behind it, the Civil Defense indicated that although it may not be common practice in Qatar, it was not in conflict with the local requirements. The programming changes were able to be made at the property. This type of outcome is not always the result of meeting with the authority having jurisdiction, but in many cases it is.


Many times there are disparities when working in different countries or regions of the world. The most common include:

  • Smoke sensors without sounders in hotel guest-rooms. This NFPA 72 requirement of having sounders with the guestroom smoke detectors is a critical issue. The sounders are necessary to alert a guest in the affected room automatically without delay if there is smoke in the room. Without sounders, the hotel relies on someone noting the alarm at the fire alarm control panel and contacting the guest. This is a big issue, especially when an existing hotel joins the Marriott system. There is a significant cost associated with replacing the sensors and modifying the fire alarm system.
  • Double knock vs. single knock. A "double knock” is when two alarm devices need to be activated before the general evacuation alarm is initiated. A "single knock” is when a single alarm device initiates the general evacuation alarm. The purpose of the double knock is to reduce false alarms, but in many cases it will cause a delay of alarm initiation. In some instances, the two device activations are required to be in the same fire alarm zone. For example, if one detector in a corridor is on one zone and the next detector in the corridor is part of another zone, the alarm would not initiate despite two detectors activating. Although double knock sequencing is common practice in many parts of the world, it is not in accordance with NFPA 72.

  • Visual notification appliances. Most countries around the world have varying requirements regarding fire alarm strobes or visual notification appliances for hearing-impaired occupants. The visible characteristics including light, color and pulse rate, as well as spacing and location as prescribed in NFPA 72, are difficult to achieve.
  • Alternate level elevator recall. In most developed countries, elevator recall, where the fire alarm system through a relay module sends the elevator cars to the ground floor upon alarm activation, is readily available. However, alternate level recall, where the elevator car is sent to an alternate floor when the alarm is located on the ground floor, is not as common. The purpose of alternate level recall is to prevent the elevator car from being sent to the fire floor. NFPA 72 details the elevator recall programming requirements, while ASME/ANSI A17.15 includes the operational requirements of elevator recall.
  • Automatic sprinklers. While installation of automatic sprinklers is becoming more common around the world, there are still many areas where sprinklers are not required or are not required by the local jurisdictions in certain hotels. This is an expensive retrofit when installed in existing buildings. In addition, some jurisdictions prohibit sprinkler installation in electric rooms, computer rooms and generator rooms where NFPA 13 has provisions for these areas. In some cases, where it is necessary to have suppression systems, yet sprinklers are prohibited, alternative suppression systems are installed in these areas at an increased installation and maintenance cost.
  • Smoke partitions. Some jurisdictions have extensive requirements for building separation, including corridor separation doors to create smoke compartments. The purpose of these compartments is to limit the spread of smoke and heat from one compartment to another. This is especially critical in buildings without automatic sprinklers. While the partitions are not a problem, separate compartments can complicate smoke exhaust systems, if present, requiring multiple smoke zones.
  • Kitchen hood suppression systems. In some parts of the world, suppression for commercial cooking hoods is not required. In other places, local codes or standard practice do not include sequencing in accordance with NFPA 96.6 When a kitchen hood suppression system activates, the gas and electric serving appliances under the kitchen hood must shut off while the exhaust continues to run, and a fire alarm signal is sent to the fire alarm system. This is sometimes a challenge to achieve.
  • Fire ratings. Wall and door rating requirements vary depending on local codes. In many cases, these ratings do not align with U.S.-based standards. One particular difficulty is meeting the requirement of providing 90-minute fire rated doors to access two-hour rated stairwells. A stair entry vestibule may be proposed with a 60-minute fire rated door on one side of the vestibule and a 30-minute fire rated door on the other. In this case, 60-minutes plus 30-minutes is not equivalent to 90-minutes.
  • Occupant load and egress calculations. Marriott's standard specifies that ballroom and meeting room occupant loads are calculated using 7 ft2/person (0.65 m2/person) net. This is the factor for concentrated use without fixed seating from NFPA 101. When a local jurisdiction applies 15 ft2/ person (1.4 m2/person) net or uses a seating chart to calculate occupant load, the exiting provided will not be adequate. In these cases, Marriott works with the architect and owner to provide additional exiting or to reconfigure the areas in the least disruptive manner.


Because each country has its own codes and standards as well as product listing regulations, performance-based design is necessary. With performance-based design, the systems are designed to meet set performance criteria rather than prescriptive requirements.

On a project in London many years ago, it was determined that providing a traditional sprinkler system would be difficult. To address infrastructure challenges and to ensure reliability of the sprinkler system, a cistern in the parking garage was required. For this project, a water mist system was implemented as an alternative to standard sprinkler systems. It saved space and addressed the infrastructure issues while at the same time it met the performance requirements of the Marriott standard.


Many projects do not have engineers or consultants that specialize in fire protection and life safety. It is even more challenging to find engineers and consultants who are familiar with NFPA codes. In these cases, Marriott works with the project teams and provides detailed guidance through meetings and reviews of design documents. It is not uncommon to review documents several times with many revisions and resubmittals needed.

In some jurisdictions, codes are adopted but not enforced. For example, one country in South America has adopted NFPA 101, but does not uniformly enforce it. This typically means that the buildings are not designed to comply, and the architects and engineers may not be familiar with the standard. In other areas, engineers are not accustomed to submitting plans or receiving thorough review comments.

Another challenge is finding properly trained installers familiar with specialized fire protection systems. In a hotel in the United Arab Emirates, the fire alarm system was plagued with improper wiring connections, broken terminal connectors on cards and fire alarm panels with more than 500 downloads. Not only were there problems with the fire alarm installation, there was a lack of tools and equipment necessary to make corrections. The Marriott Fire Protection & Life Safety team worked around the clock for weeks with the contractors before the hotel opened to the public.


Marriott has four continental regions: The Americas, including the Caribbean and Latin America; Asia-Pacific; Europe; the Middle East and Africa. With leadership, local knowledge and corporate support, Marriott Fire Protection & Life Safety brings together in-house staff and third party consultants to effectively accomplish the mission in support of the overall corporate goals and core values. Marriott Fire Protection & Life Safety contributes to corporate profitability by minimizing insurance costs by being viewed as best-in-class with underwriters, and by working with sales and marketing teams to furnish information on fire safety standards to group customers. Marriott is dedicated to providing a safe environment, worldwide, for guests and employees while simultaneously protecting the Marriott brand.

Stacy N. Welch is with Marriott International, Inc.


  1. NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2012.
  2. NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2013.
  3. NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2013.
  4. NFPA 92, Standard for Smoke Control Systems, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2012.
  5. ASME/ANSI A17.1, Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, New York, 2010.
  6. NFPA 96, Ventilation and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2014.