What Should You Do In A Hotel Fire?

Fire investigators in Las Vegas are still trying to determine the cause of yesterday's spectacular fire at the Monte Carlo Hotel-Casino. The smoky fire was confined to the roof and upper floors of the hotel, but it forced evacuation of the building and sent gamblers fleeing into the street. Seventeen people were injured, none seriously.

All of which raises a serious question for any hotel guest: What should YOU do if there's a fire?

John Fannin, president of KCI Protection, joined us from Philadelphia with some important tips.

First, your thoughts when you see a fire like this. What goes through your mind?

Fannin: The first thing that comes to mind obviously is emergency evacuation and can we safely get people out of the building? Less concerned about the property value, more concerned about the exposure of the guests and the staff.

Accounts say fire alarms were not working. Does that surprise you, a hotel like this?

It wasn't a little kitchen fire. The reports that I have read suggests that the fire may have been started outside the building and it was primarily the outside structure [burning]. So maybe the fire alarm system didn't have the opportunity to detect the fire. Buildings all have manual pull stations in them and certainly the staff should have activated them if they saw the fire. The reports that I read said that housekeeping staff was banging on doors, suggesting that people should evacuate, that the building was on fire.

Their first responsibility if they were trained correctly would have been to activate the fire alarm system.

So this serves as a reminder, at any hotel, you need to take additional factors into consideration when booking a room. What is first and foremost on your mind?

First and foremost, we want early warning as a guest and the fire alarm system, we want a prompt reaction by us, by ourselves as guests. And we need effective response. So those three things should play into our decision-making at a hotel. We are responsible at least in part for our own safety. So we should think about things before we enter any building, including a hotel. Things that we can do when we enter and things that we should do in the course of an emergency.

Certainly before we enter, before we book a hotel, we should determine if a hotel has sprinklers. There has not been a multi-fatality death in the United States in a fully-sprinklered building where the sprinkler system was properly maintained. So we should ask if the building is

Let me ask you, when traveling with children, what is the plan with kids to make sure that you do have a getaway plan in place?

Well, when you get to a hotel, with children or without, particularly with them, know two ways out of the building. Know how many doors your hotel room is from the fire exit. Make a game of that with the children when leaving. Make it a game that they know it is four doors to the left, maybe eight doors to the left. Make sure not to use elevator, and in any other situation with the children, you want to know where they are, to be able to see them. So if you are evacuating, keep the children in front of you. If you have preplanned, they know to go four doors down and that is the stairwell.

For more fire safety tips visit the KCI Protection Web site.