Saturday, March 9, 2013

Roadboy's Hotel Fire

One Night in Denver

This week I received my lifetime Platinum membership card from Marriott Hotels. To get one a road warrior must spend a minimum of 750 nights in a Marriott and earn at least 2,000,000 Marriott Rewards points.Year in and year out I have been platinum with Marriott and most of those years I also reached gold or diamond with Hilton too.

I spend a lot of time each year in a hotel room.

Now, anyone my age (old) can probably remember the 1980 MGM (Now Bally's) fire in Las Vegas. This fire quickly spread through the casino creating toxic smoke. The smoke spread up through the hotel elevator shafts. 735 people were killed and injured from smoke on upper floors of the hotel. America watched the airlift of over 1000 guests from the roof of the 23 story hotel on TV.

After that fire I began to routinely look for a fire alarm, fire detector and fire sprinkler in any hotel room I enter.

With so many of my nights spent in hotels I've lost track of how many times I've been awakened by an aggressive fire alarm Regrettably, my strongest impulse is to pull a pillow over my head and wait for the alarm to stop.

Although usually the alarms are the result of some careless guest incinerating popcorn in a microwave, I've also experienced three real live hotel fires. One in Alexandria VA, One in Bellevue WA and (this week) one in Denver CO.

My word up? Staying in your room during a fire alarm is downright stupid.

It can kill you.

Hotel fires don't just happen in dumps. My first major fire was in the elegant Bellevue Club in Washington. In Bellevue I was awakened by someone madly pounding on my door to "Get out! The hotel is on fire". It turned out the new building's sophisticated fire alarm had false alarmed so many times the hotel management had disconnected it. That turned out to be a bad move when two giggling trust fund tweakers lit up a mattress in their room.

Amazingly, after almost a whole night spent sitting on a cold curb, the hotel offered nothing but sympathy and a cup of coffee. I had to argue for a room refund, which was refused.

This week my hotel in Denver caught fire. When the alarm sounded I did not wait. I put on pants and shoes, grabbed my coat and car keys and headed for the stairs. At the first floor the smell of natural gas was pungent in the stair well.

Smelling that made me exit the building and keep walking as far as I could.

Within minutes seemingly every major piece of Denver's impressive fire fighting equipment arrived along with dozens of firefighters who worked hard to put out the upstairs fire.

Wednesday Night At The Doubletree North In Denver

Initially Guests Waited In The Lobby

Firefighters Soom Required Everyone Vacate
The Hotel Delivered Blankets

Around 3 AM, car keys in hand, I decided to go check into another hotel. The next morning I came back to try to retrieve my suitcase (It was fine.)

So here are Roadboy's tips.

1. Avoid rooms near elevators (they act like smoke pistons).
2. If you have any walking issues ask for a lower floor.
3. If you have any hearing impairments make sure the alarm in your room also has a strobe. My room alarm in the Doubletree was audible only. If I'd been deaf, I'd have been completely unaware of the fire.
4. If the room alarm sounds never try to ignore it.
5. Gather up your car keys, wallet, coat, and medications.
6. Unless your other belongings are all packed up and ready to go, leave them.
7. Before opening your room, look through the door peep scope and touch the surface to check for heat.
8. If you see fire or smoke or if the surface of the door is hot, don't open it. Soak bath towels and use them to seal the threshold of the door.
9. Go near the window and make yourself plainly visible to firefighters.

By the way, unlike the Bellevue Club.....The Doubletree North staff were great. They brought out comforters and blankets to cold guests. They displayed genuine concern at every turn. Without prompting at check out they covered my stay elsewhere plus a full refund for my nightly rate.

To Denver's Fire Department, you are awesome!

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

PS: To those that burn popcorn in hotel microwaves, you know who you are, it is 2 minutes (and never more than 2 minutes and 30 seconds) on high!


beachdaddy said...

Wow you lead an exciting life!! I remember that casino/hotel fire, I was working for a fire equipment company in Seattle and there was lots of useful information on the many trade publications I read and passed on to our customers... Indeed good plans you included here! It's so easy to pick a room for it's view and not think about escaping. We frequently take a lower floor so can walk down (somewhat) easily too, and not have to think about elevators.

Roadboy said...

Sometimes I'd prefer a nice dull travel experience ;-)!