Five of the six U.S. properties included in the Trump Hotel Collection are not on the federal government’s list of hotels and motels that have been approved as "fire safe" for federal employees. The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago is the only property in that collection that is on the Hotel-Motel National Master List, a registry that the Federal Emergency Management Agency maintains for the purpose of ensuring that federal employees traveling on government business stay in lodging that meets certain basic requirements, such as having fire alarms and sprinklers.
Federal employees cannot be reimbursed for nights at hotels that aren’t on the list, nor are they allowed to spend money on conferences or events at properties that are not on the list.
Another property under the Trump brand -- the Trump International Beach Resort Miami -- is on the list of approved lodging, though it is not included among the venues touted in Trump's Hotel Collection. Trump doesn't own any of these properties, but licenses his name to them and says he is "personally involved in everything that his name represents."
The vast majority of the 53,423 hotels and motels in the U.S. -- 87 percent -- are on the list, according to data from FEMA and the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The process of being added to the FEMA list is fairly straightforward. Hotels submit an online form, along with either a certificate of occupancy or an agreement that they will allow access to a fire inspector. FEMA then reviews the application and adds compliant venues to its list.
Enigma, a data intelligence company, flagged the absence of the Trump hotels from the federal list for HuffPost.
Hotels are not required by law to join the list, but need to if they want to do any business with the federal government -- business that is worth billions of dollars annually.
The list was created as part of the 1990 Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act, passed to encourage venues to install sprinklers, smoke detectors and fire alarms. Congress approved the law after deadly fires at hotels that lacked effective sprinklers and alarms, said Robert Solomon, the division manager for building and life safety codes at the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit that does fire safety research and training. One of those tragedies included the fire at the Hotel Dupont Plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on New Year’s Eve 1986, which killed 96 people and injured more than 140.
Solomon said that a hotel or motel not appearing on the list doesn't necessarily mean it is unsafe or that it does not meet local fire codes -- and local fire codes often go beyond what is required to get on the FEMA list. But it does mean that the property has not taken the step of presenting its fire safety credentials to the federal government in order to participate in a program created to protect government employees from staying in unsafe buildings.
"There are many optional programs such as this which our hotels regularly evaluate. While some of our properties do not participate in this particular program, our hotels are extremely vigilant and adhere to required fire and safety codes," said Trump Hotels spokeswoman Christine Da Silva. A Trump Organization spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
Local fire departments in Las Vegas and Waikiki, where two of the Trump Collection hotels are located, told The Huffington Post that there were no current fire safety concerns at the Trump venues. The Clark County Fire Department in Nevada stressed that its fire codes have been updated six times since 1990 -- so buildings there meet much tougher standards than those required to be included on the list. “If we’re not the most stringent in the country, we are right there,” said Adolf Zubia, the assistant chief for the county's Department of Building & Fire Prevention.
“We definitely have the most safest buildings in the world here in Las Vegas because of our codes and the control that goes on,” Girard Paige, the Clark County fire marshall, told HuffPost.
Records from the Chicago Fire Department, which HuffPost requested, show that the Trump Chicago has passed annual fire safety inspections and has no violations. The New York Fire Department has not responded to a public records request for fire inspection records, but the Trump Soho and Trump International in New York do not have any outstanding fire safety violations with the Department of Buildings or the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
One of the Trump properties does have a safety violation. The Miami-Dade Fire Prevention Division notified the Trump National Doral on May 23 that it was in violation of both state and county fire prevention code for failing to have records showing that its fire alarm system had been certified as meeting maintenance and testing requirements, an inspection report shows.
Dennis Lockwood, an inspector with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said this is a “fairly common violation,” and the property has since provided the required certification. In 2015, inspection reports show that the county also found that the Trump International Beach Resort in Miami was in violation of both state and county fire prevention code for failing to have records showing that its sprinkler and standpipe system, which firefighters use to connect hoses, had been certified as meeting maintenance and testing requirements.
Given how stringent local fire codes are, fire safety experts were unsure why Trump hotels would not be on the federal list. “I can’t think of any legitimate reason for any hotel property that had sprinklers and alarm and detection to not be on that list,” Solomon said.
Both Solomon and Zubia raised the possibility that the Trump Hotels are simply too expensive for federal employees' budget allowances, so it would be pointless for them to try to court federal employee business. The government's General Services Administration sets the amount federal employees can spend per night in a given location at a specific time of year. For instance, the federal per diem for hotels in Las Vegas varies between $108 and $93 depending on the time of year.
But many high-end hotels, including the Bellagio in Las Vegas and numerous Four Seasons locations, have listed rates well above the federal allowed amount, yet appear on the fire safety master list. And the one Trump Collection hotel on the list, in Chicago, does not accept government rates, according to the reservations desk. Another Trump hotel, in Miami, that appears on the approved list also does not accept government rates, the reservations desk said.
Meanwhile, employees at the Trump National Doral, Las Vegas and Soho locations said they do accept government rates based on availability, even though the venues do not appear on the list. The Trump Waikiki is also not on the fire safety list, but an employee there told HuffPost that the hotel does offer a government discount. The Trump International in New York said it does not accept government rates.
So if some of the Trump hotels do -- at least occasionally -- accept government rates, that doesn't solve the puzzle of why aren't on the list. “The question’s still out there lurking,” Solomon said. “It strikes me as odd.”
This story has been updated with a comment from a Trump Hotels spokeswoman.