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Joan Whitely
 

Rooms at hotel under a fire watch

23 April 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon on Tuesday spent its fifth day with guest rooms on fire watch, as repair services combed the guest tower for malfunctioning fire safety components.

Nine of the tower's approximately 200 guest rooms -- or fewer than 5 percent of rooms -- had problems with their emergency speakers.

A fire department record for Bill's dated Friday described the reason for the fire watch, but the tally of nine rooms affected came from Stacey Welling, a county spokeswoman.

The hotel instituted the fire watch. "It was a voluntary and prudent thing that we did," said Marybel Batjer, an executive with Harrah's Entertainment, which owns Bill's.

In early January, a person from New York who was staying at Bill's reported a similar problem with the speaker in his room. A fire alarm went off at about 6:15 one morning, but Thomas Lipscomb, the guest, did not hear any follow-up announcement of a false alarm or test. So he hurriedly walked down several stories to the front desk, where he found other concerned guests who had heard the alarm and left their rooms, too.

"After 9/11, New Yorkers are sensitive to high-rise fires and I was (on) the top floor and I am old enough to remember the MGM Grand fire," Lipscomb wrote in an e-mail that he sent to the fire department, and to the Review-Journal.

Lipscomb presumed the speaker in his room was not working. But a Clark County Fire Department inspector later decided the alarm went off accidentally during a scheduled maintenance, and that other "audibles activated properly," based on recent work reports.

Lipscomb's complaint was unfounded, according to the inspector, who wrote that she based her conclusion on January reports by Statewide Fire Protection and Siemens, two contractors that service Bill's fire safety systems.

Guests continue occupying rooms during the present fire watch. It was lifted Monday for two floors, but continued Tuesday afternoon for Bill's two remaining guest floors.

A fire watch is a round-the-clock foot patrol by employees, set up when a building's fire safety systems are not fully functioning. The employees are trained to spot fires, and quickly notify firefighting authorities. A fire watch ends when repairs are complete. Speakers in guest rooms allow the occupants to hear emergency instructions.

The current scrutiny of Bill's is prompted by the need to update its county business licenses, Welling said. The update was prompted by the 2007 name change of the property from Barbary Coast to Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon. On Tuesday Welling did not know why the county's Web site shows eight business licenses still pending for Bill's, which reopened under its present name more than a year ago, on March 1, 2007.

The Friday paperwork also shows that a building inspector found more renovations that took place at Bill's "without approved plans, permits and inspections." Inside Drai's, a late-hours dining spot at Bill's, the inspector wrote up the undocumented remodeling of a guest entry, deejay booth and kitchen. The booth and entry need more fire sprinklers. Submitting building plans, pulling permits and passing inspections are required by law to prevent safety and health hazards in buildings.

In March, inspectors ordered safety-related corrections at Bill's to a party room and a computer room. They were responding to an internal audit recently conducted by Harrah's Entertainment, which identifies remodeling projects that have taken place since 2000 at its local hotels without the safety net of plans, permits, and inspections.

The gaming company has announced it will change its name to Caesars Entertainment.