Summer may find you traveling to new places, and staying in new hotels.
Hotels have their own risks
. . . worth noting and being aware of.
High-rise hotels (or any high-rise building, for that matter) are vulnerable to fire. The causes? malfunctions in electrical equipment, carelessness, smoking (in bedrooms), temporary decorations for festivities, use of combustible cleaning materials, and, of course, arson and sabotage.
In a hotel, fire danger is increased because guests, people attending conferences, patrons at restaurants and bars, etc. probably don’t know the layout of the property and have no idea about security or emergency policies.
Particularly in developing countries, hotels have become the popular target for terrorists. There are a number of reasons why.
- Over the past couple of decades, embassies and military buildings have been “hardened” against attack.
- Hotels remain areas where many people come and go, where entrance to the building is seldom restricted, and where politicians and other high-profile individuals are likely to be found.
- Even when security is improved, by definition a hotel is a “soft target.”
If you are traveling and can make a choice about which hotel to stay in and where in the hotel to sleep or conduct your business, you may wish to consider these recommendations, culled from a variety of sources including the Stratfor Weekly, National Fire Protection Association, and Siemens Switzerland Ltd.
What to do to reduce the risks
Before you arrive
- Find out about hotel security. Is parking secured? Is the desk manned 24 hrs. a day?
- Ask about smoke/fire alarms and sprinkler systems. There is no guarantee that they will work, but if they are absent altogether, you may wish to look for another hotel.
- Choose a room between the 3rd and 5th floor, where terrorists can’t easily reach you from the street and fire department ladders can reach if you need to evacuate.
- Choose a room away from the street to avoid an explosion or violence at the entrance, which is where most terrorist activity occurs.
- On your floor, confirm the location of fire extinguishers. Have they been certified?
- Check on emergency stairs, exits and signage. Confirm that there are no items stored in stairwells.
- Keep emergency items next to your bed: shoes, a flashlight, and a smoke hood if you carry one. See below for more details.
If there is a fire in the hotel
- Grab your smoke hood and be ready to put it on if you smell smoke.
- Escape from your room if you can safely.
- Stay low and use walls as a guide.
- Use stairs; do NOT use elevators.
- Do not enter a staircase or hallway if it is filled with smoke. Try to find another path.
- If you must, stay in your room. Protect against smoke by sealing the door with duct tape and/or wet towels; stay low to the floor.
If you suspect terrorist activity
- Escape from the hotel if you can.
- If you are trapped in your room, protect yourself. Lock the door. Use a door wedge. If you can do it quietly, move furniture in front of the door for further protection. Turn off the lights. Turn off the TV and silence your cell phone. Close the drapes to protect from explosions that might create broken glass, and stay away from the windows. YOUR GOAL IS TO MAKE THE ROOM APPEAR EMPTY so terrorists will go on to an easier target.
- If terrorists are evident, and you cannot escape and cannot hide, you must fight. Improvise weapons with whatever is at hand – a lamp, a piece of furniture, a hot iron, a full water bottle, a battery charger at the end of a cord or in a sock, etc. In this case, your SURVIVAL MINDSET IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WEAPONS. Fight, and don’t stop.
Emergency items for travelers
In this article we’ve mentioned just a few items that are recommended for travel safety. We haven’t used all of them ourselves, but it they make sense to you, check them out.
You may have a couple of these in the house already! Simple, small, easy to pack. Very effective at keeping any door closed — and you can get a couple of them for less than $10. Here’s an example from Amazon:
If you’re traveling by car, you can also consider carrying a sliding glass door security bar. We always have one for peace of mind when we stay in hotels with balconies. Cost is right around $20. Here’s a link to a good one (no photo – I figured you know what a bar looks like!):
Rather like a gas mask, a smoke hood goes over your head and seals tightly to protect you from inhaling smoke. A filter allows you to breathe. Smoke hoods cost anywhere from $25 to $150 or even twice that, so you’ll want to shop carefully.
The filters in smoke hoods screen out particulate matter, fumes and gases. Unfortunately, the most deadly gas, carbon monoxide, can’t be filtered out. But carbon monoxide can be converted to carbon dioxide. Look for this feature in the smoke hoods you’re considering.
Other features to consider: How big is the hood — will it go over eyeglasses? Will it fit a small child? How good is visibility? Can others see you in the smoke? How long will protection last?
Here are three different models from Amazon, for comparison. Look at the photos (provided by the sellers) to answer some of the questions above. Click on the links to go directly to the detailed product page.
1 – FIREMASK
FIREMASK Emergency Escape Hood Oxygen Mask Smoke Mask Gas Mask Respirator for Industrial and Urban Survival – Protects for 60 Min Against Fire, Gas, & Smoke Inhalation . Great for Home, Office, Truck, High Rise Buildings. Get Peace of Mind
Firemask claims 60 minutes effectiveness. Of course, it is one-time use, replaced if you need to use it. Its Polycarbonate visor looks to provide good visibility.
Easy to put on, fits children as young as 3. Amazon low cost (as of today), $28.95.
2 – SAFESCAPE
From the photos and reviews, it looks as though the hood on the Safescape is bigger and perhaps more heat resistant than other hoods. The hard case can be mounted in a strategic place, and the glow in the dark strips would make it easy to find. Any hard case might make packing a smoke hood more difficult.
60 Minutes of breathable filtered air. Easy to put on without special instruction.
Five year shelf life – Free Replacement if used in documented emergency.
Amazon price today: $69.95. Note that there is also a less expensive Safescape 30-minute hood.
3 – iEVAC
This is most expensive and heaviest of the three hoods here. Notice the reflective tape top and sides, which will stand out in smoke and darkness.
This hood is the only “certified” hood. It gets top reviews and carries some strong endorsements:
- Designated as an Anti-terrorism technology by the US Department of Homeland Security Safety Act
- Tested by the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center
- Currently being used by numerous Federal, State and local Government Agencies including every branch of the Military
The iEvac costs $149.95 at Amazon (and more in other places).
Of course, you can’t avoid every potential danger when you’re traveling. But some simple, common sense preparations may make your trip a lot more comfortable and safer.
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team
If you actually live full-time in a highrise building, you may want to take a much closer look at what would happen if a fire broke out. Here’s an Emergency Plan Guide Advisory with more ideas.