By Tom Kiurski
I think most of us have stayed in hotels and motels before. They may have varied from very nice places to a place to rest overnight without amenities, but there are plenty of them out there to fill the need. What you may not know is that U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 4,000 reported hotel and motel structure fires each year.
On average, one of every 12 hotels or motels reported a structure fire each year, but most of them were minor. About two-thirds of them were confined to the object of origin, and only about 10 percent spread beyond the room of origin. Armed with the National Fire Protection Association's report on hotel and motel fires, let's take a look at how we can be safer when staying at these establishments.
Most fire deaths came from fires started in guest rooms. While only a small percentage of fires started in guest rooms, those fires caused three-fourths of the deaths and half of the injuries in hotels and motels. Very few deaths have occurred in properties in which automatic sprinklers were present so you may want to consider this when booking your next room.
The leading cause of hotel and motel structure fires was cooking equipment. Your Livonia firefighters have responded to numerous small fires in microwave ovens, toasters and the like. Whether the food is prepared in a commercial kitchen or available to guests as part of a continental breakfast, cooking is the leading cause of fires in buildings.
Hotels and motels are not your home, and you are not as familiar with the layout as you are your own home. With this in mind, look out of the door to your room and plan an escape path in case of fire. While most of our directions start from the elevator, you should not consider this in your escape plan. Fire alarms usually render the elevators inoperable so consider the nearest stairway and see if you have another stairway in the opposite direction in case your nearest stairway is blocked by fire or smoke. Look for signs that mark the door as an exit, note how the door is different than room doors, make sure they open and make sure they provide an unobstructed path out of the building.
If you wake to an alarm, listen carefully as many alarms are vocal and give instructions to guests based on the type of alarm and your proximity to it. If there are no directions given, you must assume the worst. Fires need your immediate evacuation so quickly grab your room key, car keys and a coat and follow your exit path to outside safety.
While fires in hotel and motels don't happen to most of us, it is best to be prepared for this event, in case it does happen to us. Only through proper planning do we stand our best chance for survival.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.