Fire Safety when travelling abroad
Recent experiences during my stay in Liverpool, England bought to light the importance of fire safety while travelling. During my stay, the hotel’s fire alarm became faulty, and caused a false alarm. A series of events followed, that revealed poor management, a lack of training, and lack of emergency contact information. This resulted in the alarm not being fixed, causing everyone in the building at risk, if a fire happened.
Had I paid attention to the box by the front door of the hotel, I would have noticed that the fire alarm was faulty when I first arrived. A mixture of tiredness, poor eyesight and a faulty automatic door made me dismiss the “fault” warning notice on a box by the automatic door. I had made a mistake of presuming that this box, was for the automatic door; when it was actually for the fire alarm. Had I stopped to read the screen, or list of faults I would have soon realised what it was for.
To help keep within my budget, I had chosen to book a windowless room – the cheapest option available at £10 a night. At the time, this seemed a bargain and I didn’t mind not having a window until the alarm sounded. Thoughts crossed my mind – What if the fire was outside my room? I would be unable to leave. Without a window, I had no way of escaping if door to my room was blocked. Sadly, we do not tend to think about these things until we find ourselves in a situation, where we wished we had.
To help stay safe when travelling, I recommend carrying out some safety checks to confirm if your accommodations fire safety is up to scratch.
Fire Safety Checks
1. When you enter your accommodation, check the fire escape route. This is normally the back of the door. Walk the route at least once to confirm you know where to go, and count each of the doors between you and the exit. Confirm that your access to the fire exit is not blocked, and that no doors are locked or wedged open. Check that the fire doors on the escape route can close fully. If the route is obstructed, fire doors left open or unable to close, report it to management straight away. If you are disabled staying above ground level, make sure you know how to get help going down the stairs if needed.2. Always check for sprinklers, and smoke alarms. Check that the door to your room is a fire door, and that it closes properly. In case of a fire, this door could save your fire so make sure it closes tight. While not fire related, it is worth checking for a carbon monoxide alarm when staying in accommodation that has a fire place, or uses gas cooking or heating. You can ask the management what type of heating is used if you are unsure.
3. If you have a hearing impairment, check if the hotel uses a visual fire alarm. If not, tell them that you will be unable to hear the alarm and they should do their best to make sure you will be alerted if there is a fire.
4. Make sure there is no exposed wiring in your room. Check that the appliances in the room are tested to local safety law requirements. In the UK, they should carry a green PAT testing sticker to confirm they have been tested by a qualified electrician.
6. Check that there are fire extinguishers, and remember where they are. Check the fire extinguishers for any stickers or tags indicating when they were manufactured, serviced and filled. If there is none, information available, or it has been a while since the last service, politely ask the hotel management about the extinguishers. It is worth looking up how to use a fire extinguisher, so you are already semi-prepared in case of a fire. 7. If you have access to any cooking facilities, check that there is a fire safety blanket. These are normally red rectangle shaped objects attached to a wall or kitchen unit near the cooking facilities. . If there is no fire blanket, it’s used or damaged, tell management. 8. If you see any boxes indicating a fault (like I did), pay more attention to it than I did. Learn from my mistake. Check what the box is for and read any notices on it. If the box says it is faulty, report it to management.
9. Locate the fire alarm buttons, and check that they are free from any damage. If it supposed to have glass, make sure that the glass is still in place. On the ones that you push, check if there are any signs of it being pushed in. Just make sure you do not break the glass or push them yourself as this would get you into a lot of trouble.
10. Look up the emergency services telephone numbers for the country you are visiting. Some countries have different numbers for different services so you may wish to save them to your phone. In Europe, most countries use 112, a lot of North America uses 911. You can check the number(s) on this Wikipedia article here (List of emergency telephone numbers).
Finally, remember if you see anything that raises a red flag, no matter how minor, make sure you report it to management. Just remember to do so politely, and most places will do their best to fix the problems. If you still feel unsafe after reporting it to management, call the company you booked through and see if they can help. If the country has a non-emergency number, you can use that to report the fire safety risk. Otherwise ask a local if they know how to report it.
Always remember it is better to change accommodation to one that cares about your safety, and has proper safety rules in place, than to put your life at risk to save some cash.
Safety first. Fires do happen, and recent incidents in the UK and other countries have highlighted how dangerous fires are and how quickly they can spread.
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