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BRISBANE, Australia-Management at a pair of Australia casinos doesn't leave fire safety up to chance.

Attention to basics and communicating safety programs to employees are the keys to safety for both complexes.

Fire safety procedures, equipment, testing, maintenance, housekeeping, continuous monitoring, input from many sources and communication are among the methods the Conrad International Hotels chain uses to maintain safety in its two casinos in Queensland, Australia.

As a result, its insurer has awarded the casinos its highest possible fire safety rating. The hotel-casino complexes are Conrad Jupiters on the Gold Coast and the Conrad International Treasury Casino in Brisbane.

While other hotels-and buildings-have achieved the AAA rating from CIGNA International, the Conrad complexes are the only hotel-casino complexes in the world to achieve the rating. CIGNA does not insure all Conrad complexes globally but says it insures many hotels and casinos.

The Conrad Jupiters and Conrad Treasury complexes are insured with Sydney-based CIGNA Insurance Asia Pacific Pty. Ltd., a unit of CIGNA International that actually made the award. Coverage is provided for property, liability and business interruption losses.

Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Conrad International Hotels operates hotels and casinos in eight countries.

Bob Anderson, CIGNA's Sydney-based director, Pacific region risk management engineering services, said the two complexes had to achieve the top rating on 21 criteria to be eligible for CIGNA's AAA award. CIGNA's AAA rating criteria includes documentation of fire safety procedures, maintenance of equipment, training, smoking controls, housekeeping standards, regular inspections, water supplies, security, and contingency planning.

Alexander & Alexander Inc. is broker for both complexes.

Bill O'Brien, chief engineer at Brisbane's Conrad Treasury, said meeting the sophisticated fire policies, procedures and training requirements for the AAA standard was very demanding.

The Conrad Treasury opened in December 1995; documentation of fire safety systems started seven months earlier.

Both the Conrad Jupiters and Conrad Treasury complexes have operated under generic fire safety systems, developed for Conrad's worldwide operations, since their openings in 1986 and 1995, respectively.

Both complexes employed the fire division of Brisbane-based consulting engineers Lincolne Scott Australia Pty. Ltd. for advice on the best fire equipment available in Australia and how to adapt it to meet each building's needs.

Each casino's fire system includes hundreds of smoke detectors, fire sensors, alarms, sprinklers, intercoms and wall control panels. Casino engineers regularly maintain, test and evaluate the equipment's performance.

Mr. O'Brien said that while advanced fire detection and control systems were an important part of achieving the AAA rating, good housekeeping and maintenance contributed greatly to the rating.

Basics, such as cleanliness and ensuring there are no obstructions at fire exits, may seem obvious but are

fundamental to effective fire safety management, he said. "You must ensure that all areas are being used as intended," he said.

Allan Porter, chief engineer at Conrad Jupiters on the Gold Coast, agreed that attention to basic details is just as important as sophisticated fire systems. "It is a bit like running an airplane; you have to make sure the exits are clear and people know where they are," he said.

He said it is also crucial that any modifications to the building, such as new doors, are integrated into the fire safety system.

Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Porter agreed the biggest fire safety challenge facing casino/hotel operations is the large number of people passing through the buildings. "We can have up to 8,000 people in the complex at anyone time," Mr. Porter said.

And guests are enlisted to help with safety. All Conrad Jupiters' guests are encouraged to report anything out of the ordinary. Notices telling guests whom to contact to report things they see are posted. "If a customer says they smell something, you have to check it out."

Mr. O'Brien said the large number of people who visit casinos often creates crowd problems, particularly around popular gaming tables and machines. But Conrad Jupiters' security staff continually monitors crowd levels to ensure they do not create safety risks.

Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Porter said standards for basic fire safety and "housekeeping," such as general tidiness and clearing doorways, were developed from input from all staff departments.

The standards "are not just something I write," Mr. Porter said. "There is continual input."

Mr. O'Brien said all departmental heads were involved in the development of basic "housekeeping" standards for the Conrad Treasury complex. The standards are outlined in staff handbooks so all employees are aware of them.

Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Porter agreed the success of basic fire safety systems is dependent on effective internal communication.

Mr. Porter said Conrad Jupiters' 48 engineers are responsible for monitoring and evaluating the performance of fire safety equipment, while the complex's 95 security staffers are responsible for evaluating the basic fire safety standards daily.

He said reports of lapsed standards or potential problem areas are communicated to casino management through regular departmental and workplace health and safety meetings. Recent breaches or new changes to the standards are communicated to all staff through e-mail and staff notice boards.

Mr. O'Brien said there is continual communication, including meetings, memos and e-mails, among Conrad Treasury's departmental heads to ensure safety standards are being addressed. He said various departments could unknowingly violate safety standards. For example, a marketing department could place promotional signage in front of or too close to an exit. Mr. O'Brien said such incidents are rare and that the focus is on preventing potential breaches before they occur.

Conrad Treasury's 40 engineers and 120 security staff constantly monitor implementation of general safety standards.

Regular staff meetings inform all staff of recent breaches or changes to standards to ensure "everyone is toeing the line," Mr. O'Brien said.

"We have to make sure everyone is aware of how their actions can impact on safety."

CIGNA staff audits the Conrad Jupiters and Conrad Treasury complexes three to four times a year. CIGNA provides a full report on all 21 criteria in the AAA rating.

Both casinos also regularly assess their fire safety systems.

Mr. Porter said Conrad Jupiters engineers are constantly conducting internal audits to prepare comparative data for all safety areas.

Mr. O'Brien said Conrad Treasury engineers inspect fire safety systems three times a week.

Inspection data is filed and compared over different periods to identify potential problem areas.

Mr. O'Brien said one of the hardest parts of achieving and maintaining the AAA rating at Conrad Treasury is ensuring all fire safety procedures are consistent with the building's heritage requirements. "There is a protocol that we have to follow," he noted.

The Conrad Treasury complex was converted from a former Queensland Government Treasury Department building, and is heritage-listed. The Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage decides what buildings will be so listed based on historical significance. Once listed, and after any owner or tenant appeals, the department sets rules for the use of the building.

One condition under which Conrad is able to use the 111-year-old building for a casino is that the sandstone facade and much of the original interior cannot be altered. All modifications and general maintenance also require approvals from the Queensland Government's Department of Environment and Heritage.

Mr. O'Brien said because the building once was used for government offices, it has more small rooms than in modern, purpose-built casinos.

Small rooms create additional fire risks, but fire evacuation procedures have been modified to ensure special attention is paid to clearing all rooms. The small rooms are used for gambling, especially high-stakes game, and functions.