Travelers need to pay close attention to fire safety as well as location and amenities when planning a trip. When traveling, it is important to become familiar with your surroundings. Here are some safety guidelines to ensure your trip is safe.
Begin at home…
- Begin preparing for a hotel/motel fire before you leave home.
- Pack a flashlight with fresh batteries. The flashlight can guide you through a dark and smoky hall or may be used to signal rescuers. Also, pack a portable smoke detector to be extra safe.
- When making reservations, request rooms closer to the ground level and ask if the hotel/motel has smoke alarms and sprinklers.
- If any of the occupants has a disability (blindness, deafness or mobility impairment), make sure they can be accommodated.
Take a few moments after your arrival to do each of the following:
- Review the Hotel Evacuation Plan located on the back of your hotel room door. Note the location of all fire exits on your floor.
- Locate nearby fire alarms and fire extinguishers.
- Practice unlocking and opening the windows in your room. Look outside to see if you could escape without injury.
- Learn the layout of your room, and know how to unlock your door in the dark. This will help prepare you for quick evacuation at night or during a power outage.
- Place your room keys on a night stand where you can find them quickly. Take your room key with you when you evacuate in case emergency exits are blocked by fire and you must return to your room.
- Locate the two nearest stairs and count the number of doors between your room and the stairwell. In a fire, the hall may be dark and it may be difficult to see the exit stairway. Counting the number of doors may help you find the stairs.
- Check to make sure the exits are not locked or blocked. Notify the hotel manager if exits are not accessible.
During a fire…
- If the fire alarm sounds, leave the building immediately. Take your room key with you so that, in case the exits are blocked by fire or smoke, you can return to your room.
- Test doors before you open them. If there is fire on the other side, it will feel warm around the cracks. If the door is warm, use your second way out or stay in your room and begin procedures for “If You Are Trapped.” If the door is cool, open it cautiously and check to make sure your escape path is clear of fire and smoke.
- Always use the stairs, not an elevator, during a fire.
- If you must escape through smoke, crawl low under the smoke on your hands and knees to your exit.
Fire in your room…
If fire begins in your room, stay calm and remember these tips:
- Evacuate your room immediately. Quickly grab your key and flashlight. As you exit, close the door behind you to prevent the spread of flames into the hallway.
- Sound the fire alarm and alert neighbors on your floor of the emergency.
- Walk to safety via the nearest fire exit. If you encounter smoke en route, crouch or crawl low to the ground.
- Once you are safe from danger, locate the nearest phone and inform the front desk or hotel operator of the emergency.
Fire outside your room…
If fire occurs elsewhere in the hotel, be prepared to hear the fire alarm, shouting in the hallway, a phone call from hotel officials, and sirens. If you are the one to detect smoke or fire, call the hotel operator immediately.
- Grab your room key. If you detect any smoke in your room, quickly drop to the ground and crawl toward the door.
- DO NOT stand up in smoke — you may be overcome by the rising toxic gasses.
- Feel the door with the back of your hand. If it feels unusually warm or hot, DO NOT open it — the fire may be right outside.
- If the door isn’t warm or hot, open it slowly. Be prepared to close the door quickly if smoke is rushes in.
If smoke is present…
If your hotel room door is hot, and there is smoke in the hallway, stay calm and keep the door closed. You can survive a hotel fire by awaiting rescue in your room.
- If the phone works, call the hotel operator. Explain that you are trapped in your room and in need of rescue.
- Meanwhile, fill the bathtub with water and wet your towels and sheets. You may also use water to cool the walls; use a wastebasket or ice bucket to help bail water.
- To seal the doorway from smoke, put wet towels or sheets at the bottom of the door. If you have wide duct tape, seal the entire door jam. Stuff any vents with wet towels or sheets, or tape a magazine over each vent to prevent smoke from entering.
- To make your location more visible to firefighters, hang a sheet out the window. DO NOT use the sheet to climb down from your room.
- Despite your best efforts, smoke may still enter the room. Use a blanket or sheet to make a tent over your head, put your covered head out the window and breathe the clean air. If your window does not open you may have to break it with a chair or drawer. Break the window only as a last resort.
- If smoke can enter your room from outside, close the window immediately and keep it closed. Make this observation before breaking a window.
If the hallway is clear…
If you have been alerted to fire in the hotel, yet your door is not hot, and the hallway is free from smoke, follow these guidelines:
- Take your room key, close the door behind you, and walk to the nearest fire exit as mapped out in the evacuation plan. (Do not take time to gather your belongings.)
- Do Not Take the Elevator. If you attempt to take the elevator in a fire you may become trapped. The elevator may also take you to the floor where the fire is.
- Using the stairs, walk to the bottom floor of the hotel. Hold onto the handrail as you go so as not to be knocked down by someone behind you.
- If you encounter smoke or fire on lower levels, return to your room. Call the hotel operator and explain that you are trapped in your room.
- If you cannot make it back to your room, walk to a floor with clearer air, and attempt to find another emergency exit. As a last resort, take the stairs to the roof.
If you are trapped…
If you can’t escape and there is no fire in your room, stay put.
- Call the fire department and let them know your exact location.
- Shut off fans and air conditioners because they can draw smoke into the room.
- Stuff towels or sheets in the cracks around all doors and vents between you and the fire.
- If you can, open the window at the top and bottom, but be prepared to shut it if smoke comes into the room. Do not break the window; you may need to shut it later.
- Stay at the window and signal the firefighters by waving a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
Hints for meeting planners…
If you’re a convention or meeting planner, you should pay particular attention to fire safety. Before scheduling an event, investigate the hotel’s arrangements for fire detection, its alarm systems, the provisions for extinguishing fires, the exit routes and employee training for fire emergencies.
The hotel should have an alarm system and ideally should have an automatic sprinkler system, particularly for large exhibition areas and other wide areas. If you’re planning a large trade show, be sure the hotel provides services to remove packing materials quickly from the exhibit area.
A general rule to keep in mind is that street-level meeting rooms are the easiest to evacuate. Rooms above the seventh floor are more hazardous, because fire ladders may not reach that high. Basement meeting rooms may not be a wise choice, because meeting participants must climb up stairs in the same direction smoke and flames will travel.
The meeting room should have adequate exits. A rule of thumb is that 50 to 300 persons require two exits. Three hundred to 1,000 need three exits, and more than 1,000 persons should have four or more exits. The exits should be brightly lit, not blocked by furniture or curtains and be easily opened. They should never be locked or chained.
Seating or exhibit arrangements should allow enough aisle space for quick evacuation. You should familiarize yourself with exits and escape routes. You should not only make sure that the hotel floor plan is visibly posted, but also walk the entire escape route. Hallways, exits and stairwells should be clear of obstructions. Stairs should have emergency lighting and elevators should be clearly marked to prevent use in a fire.
After you check the escape route, ask the hotel staff to remove any furniture that is in the way and to point out the location of automatic sprinklers and smoke detectors. Locate fire extinguishers in case of small “wastepaper basket” fires, but be sure to call the fire department directly before attempting to control even a small fire.
Arrange to listen to the fire alarm and find out who on the hotel staff is responsible for calling the fire department — although in case of fire, contact the fire department first and then alert the hotel switchboard on the house telephone.
Before your meeting, instruct attendees about alarms, escape routes and general fire safety procedures.
The best precautions…
No matter what safety measures the hotel and its staff provide, the best protection in a fire emergency is an alert individual who knows what to do in a hotel fire.