Travel Fire Drills: Hotel Fire Safety

Fireman Entering Room

Fireman Entering Room

Today I am going to cover how to be prepared to survive a hotel fire if there were a fire in the hotel, motel or resort you are staying in. Just like you do fire drills at home you need to know your hotel fire safety instructions and fire evacuation information.

Eliminating panic is one of the key factors in surviving any disaster including a fire. If you plan ahead what you will do in a disaster then you can remain calm at that critical time. Remaining calm allows you to think, function and in a positive way.

This is especially important if you are staying in hotels that are not well regulated or have little or no hotel fire safety preparation. I have stayed in many hotels where I wondered how anyone would get out from upper floors where they barely have a fire department.

It’s not like you see in the movies.  Most people die from smoke or toxic fumes inhalation, jumping to their death or from being trampled. I have heard that staying in lower room levels might be better too especially in developing countries.

I am not a fatalist I just know that if you are prepared you shall not fear. So I do a check of my surroundings make a plan and then forget it. Just like you do fire drills at home to be prepared but you don’t sit and worry about it all the time. Rather it gives you peace of mind.

My planning ahead starts when I pack for the trip. I always take a whistle, flashlight and duct tape.

Escape Routes

Check where your room is located in relation to the stairs and ground floor. On the back of the door is an escape diagram. See where the exits are and investigate all of them. While you are standing there memorize how your door unlocks and opens from the inside. You may have to do it without your eyesight.

Always use the designated escape routes. Do not use the elevator. Check that your room has a fire alarm and sprinkler system.

Know how many doors are between your room and the stairs. If there is a fire and the hall is filled with smoke or the lights go out and it is dark you may need to feel and count the doors to find the exit or stairway. Check that the stairway and exit doors are unlocked and fire hazards like stairways being blocked, ice machines in the hallway, or fire doors that might close won’t block your way. Find out how many stairway landings there are between your floor and the ground floor. Check to see if the exit is in a hallway inside the hotel or is an outside exit. The whole point is to be able to go outside without the aid of sight.

Check out your windows. Do they open? How many floors up are you? Is there a means of escape from the window? You may not be able to use this as an escape. If more than 2 stories you probably can’t do it.

When the Alarm Goes Off

If there is a fire or other emergency the alarm will go off, the staff will call your room, or they will bang on your door or you may hear them yelling in the hall. (if the later two are the case and there is not smoke in your room hold your breath and check the peep hole before opening the door)

The number one life saving action is to act. Don’t assume when an alarm sounds that it is a drill or that it was accidentally set off. Too many people wait to see if it is real or not. Those are life saving minutes and seconds. Evacuate immediately!

Crawl out of bed as smoke & toxic gasses can be at standing height.

Leave your room key, wallet, whistle and flashlight on the nightstand where you can grab them. If you sleep in something you would rather not be seen in by the other hotel guests or media leave a change of clothing by the bed that you can grab on your way out. Have your shoes where you can slip into them. Have your wallet or ID either on the night and or in your clothing you take with you. You may need your key to get back into your room.  The flashlight will aid in seeing in the dark or smoke as well as being used as a signal. The whistle can help firefights locate you if you get trapped.

Crawl to the door. Check the door with the back of your hand first at the bottom and then near the top of the door then feel the door handle if anything is hot don’t open it. If it is cool open the door slowly. Check for smoke. If there is no smoke stand up and quickly exit the building. If you check and find there is smoke in the hall crawl to the nearest exit avoiding any fire hazards along the way. This is where checking things out ahead of time may save your life especially if you have to count doors to find the exit. If your way is blocked as you attempt to get out turn around and go back to your room.

If the door is hot or you have to return to your room the window may be an option if you can get out that way. If you are too high up don’t jump. You will most likely be rescued or be safe in your room but jumping could severely injure or kill you. If you are trapped in your room try calling the front desk to notify them, signal out the window, and hang a sheet in the window to signal that you are trapped in the room. Do not attempt to exit by the window if there is smoke or flames outside the window. Do not break the window.  Turn on the bathroom fan to draw the smoke to the top of the room. Wet towels and blankets in the tub and block all the cracks in the doors. You can also use the duct tape to do some of this. Fill the bathtub with water for fire fighting. You can use the ice bucket to throw water on hot doors or walls.

Remember that your biggest threat is death from smoke and toxic gas inhalation.

If you are attending a meeting or party in the hotel check for exits there too.

Don’t let all of this scare you; let it help you be confident and calm because just being prepared ahead of time can make all the difference.

Author: Debbie Gerber
Posted in: Blog, Travel Health & Safety, Travel Tip

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