What’s Your Hotel Evacuation Plan?
December 21st, 2011

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. Twice in the last three months I’ve stayed in a hotel where the fire alarm has gone off. Once it was at 3 AM and someone came over the hotel intercom saying to stay put until further instructions. The second time we weren’t evacuated, but the fire trucks came and investigated. Neither time proved to be an actual fire. Most recently during my stay in New York City, the elevator alarm went off. It was so loud we thought it was the fire alarm. Turns out someone rang it, presumably by accident as no one was actually stuck in the elevator, nor was anyone carted out for disturbing the peace with a “false alarm.”

In 32 years, I’d never had an alarm go off in a hotel, and three in the last month.  I realized the first time that it happened that I had absolutely no idea what to do. While I’m lucky in that there was no real fire nor did I have to evacuate, I have come to some conclusions about the how to handle the situation. Since I think a middle of the night fire alarm in a hotel would surprise and possibly fluster many travelers, here are some of my tips to stay on top of things if this should occur.

  • As cliché as it sounds, don’t panic. Who has ever made a better decision in mid panic?  If you need to associate an emotion with it, get annoyed at it disturbing your travels.
  • Listen to the person on the loud speaker.  Don’t run outside frantically in your pajamas until told.  It might have just been some kids playing a prank.
  • While you’re waiting to do as you’re told, make sure you’re appropriately dressed in the event that you do have to evacuate.  You might be out there a while and you don’t want to be in a t-shirt if it’s 30 degrees outside. This also speeds up the evacuation process.
  • Think about what you’d absolutely need if you did have to evacuate and there was an actual fire. They don’t generally let you bring large items with you, so put your ID, phone, cash/credit card and anything absolutely necessary (ie medication) in your pockets. If the hotel were to go ablaze, these are the basics you’d want to have in your position.
  • If you have to evacuate, there is a reason for the “in a fire, take the stairs” signs – can get trapped in an elevator and die of smoke inhalation. Go down the stairs in an orderly fashion – it will slow down the process if people try to trample each other and no one will get anywhere.
  • Come up with a plan before you travel. If you are traveling with a child or a pet, how are you to make sure they get out safely in the event of an evacuation? Don’t wait until the alarm is going off to figure this out. If it’s scaring you, it would certainly scare a little kid. This may sound silly, but it’s better than something going wrong because you don’t have a plan.

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