How to Survive a Hotel Fire
|When people are caught in a hotel fire, it can be even more disorienting
than at home, because they are in unfamiliar surroundings, often asleep.
In 1980, a fire at the 26-story MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas killed 85 people.
A few months later, a fire at the Las Vegas Hilton killed eight more. A
1993 fire at Chicago's residential Paxton Hotel killed 20 people.
To demonstrate the dangers, Primetime staged two demonstrations with the
help of the Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Department in southern Florida.
In the first, the department staged a controlled "live burn" at
an abandoned hotel to show how quickly a fire can turn deadly. In the second,
with the help of the Sheraton Yankee Trader hotel, a high-rise on the city's
beachfront, the department used theatrical smoke to simulate two fires,
each time testing the reactions of 16 volunteer guests. The volunteers were
told that they would be participating in a show about survival, but they
did not know there would be a simulated fire.
|In the live fire at the abandoned hotel, a trashcan fire caused by a discarded
cigarette took just seconds to engulf the bed, then the desk and soon the
ceiling. Within 30 seconds, thick black smoke had filled the room and started
seeping into the hallway. A minute later, the smoke had covered the ceiling
of the hallway and begun to descend, extinguishing the remaining light and
oxygen. By that point, the heat inside the room was reaching temperatures
as high as 950 degrees, shattering mirrors and the TV screen. The oxygen
level, at a normal 21 percent of the air before the fire, had decreased
to 12 percent, low enough to kill. With the difference between life and
death often a matter of seconds, not minutes, fire safety officers suggest
the following tips:
Check the hallway when you arrive
|As soon as you arrive in your room, check the floor plan on the back of
the door that shows the location of the fire exits. Go out into the hallway
and count the doors to the closest exits so you will be able to find them
in the dark and smoke of a fire. In the experiment at the Sheraton Yankee
Trader, none of the 16 guests inspected the hallway when they arrived.
Leave your room key where you can find it
|When you go to sleep, leave your room key on the bedside table so you
can find it quickly.
If you hear an alarm, check the door for heat
|If the fire alarm goes off, test the room door with the back of your hand
to see if it is hot, which could indicate there is fire in the hallway.
If the door is not hot, open it
|If the door is not hot, open it cautiously and if you have visibility
— at least near the floor — make your way to the nearest exit.
If you leave, take your key but leave your belongings
|If you leave the room, take your room key in case you have to return.
Leave your belongings — every second counts. In Primetime's simulation,
many of the volunteers took their time leaving, wasting precious time as
they debated what valuables to take or gathered up watches, fanny packs
and so on.
|If there is smoke in the corridor, stay low. In the live fire at the abandoned
hotel, temperature checks showed that just outside the room where the fire
was burning, the hallway was a safe 87 degrees near the floor. But at the
top of the hallway it was 137 degrees — hot enough to induce third-degree
burns, down to the bone, in just five seconds.
If there is too much smoke, stay in your room.
|If you can't see your way to the exit, put wet towels under the door and
call 9-11 to report your location. Stay near the window but don't open it,
and wait for help.
|If blocked, return to your room. If you try to get to
the exit but find that it is blocked or the smoke and heat are too much,
return to your room, seal the doors with wet towels and fill the tub with
water.It is safer to wait inside your room than inside a smoke-filled hallway.
In the experiment at the Sheraton Yankee Trader, the 16 guests stayed in
the smoke-filled hallway when they found the exit was blocked, yelling and
banging at the door instead of returning to their rooms. If the theatrical
smoke used in the simulation had been real, they might have died. "They
should be back in their rooms defending their place," said Division
Chief Stephen McInerny of the Fort Lauderdale department.
|Never use Elevator
|Walkdown the corridor and find fire exit.. Remember, never use the elevator
in a fire - the call buttons may take you to a floor filled with smoke or
|Tip to travaller
| It's a good Idea to always pack a flashlight in your suitcase. You may
need it to guide yourself through smoke or darkness.