Sunday, July 05, 2009

Dead End

As everyone who lives in a hotel knows, one of your first duties upon dropping your suitcases in the room is to determine your emergency exit route. Unless I'm actually carrying my seventy pounds of luggage with me at the time, I typically get from floor to floor in a hotel using the stairs anyway, so I want to know where they are even if there isn't a fire.

Not too long ago I was staying near the middle of the upstairs floor in a two-storey hotel. It had a staircase at each end and an elevator in the middle. I noticed an EXIT sign in the middle of the upstairs corridor. It's the red, ceiling mounted kind, not the ankle-level green ones you get in California, and it's pointing to the elevator foyer. Had I missed a staircase? The foyer contained the elevators, a pop machine, an electrical room door, an unmarked, locked door a little narrower than standard--probably a closet--and a window. The window did not have any opening hardware on it and did not have a fire axe next to it or a fire escape leading from it down to the pool patio below.

I asked a member of the hotel staff about it, and they confirmed that the only way out of the building through the foyer was the elevators. They did realize the inappropriateness of the fire exit sign, so I think it will be fixed, but how does a fire inspector not catch that?

11 comments:

ZD said...

Are you not assuming that there is a fire department, let alone a fire inspector?

dpierce said...

That's kinda scary. Of course, fire safety can go overkill, too -- I've been in hotels that have fire doors you have to bash your way through every 20 feet, followed by a cascade of them slamming shut, ensuring nobody gets any sleep.

Personally, the first thing I do in a hotel room is ensure the phone works. Then I switch its ringer off.

Anonymous said...

I like the green exit signs near the floor concept. Seems much more well-thougth-out.

Capt. Schmoe said...

Fire exits are kind of like those three little flashlights that you keep in your chart case. They really aren't all that important... until you need one.

Many areas don't have the resources to fully staff/train a solid fire prevention division.

Plan checkers should ensure adequate exits are designed into the building, inspectors should ensure that the exits are maintained and properly signed.
Sometimes, stuff falls lnto the cracks.

Good idea to plan a way out though. You should do the same in theaters and restaraunts too!

Jim said...

I always request a room right by the stairwell. Never been turned down yet. I suppose its because most people ask to be by the elevator instead.

Same applies to commercial flights. Exit row seating only. I'm so used to having the crew door right beside me in my plane it bothers me not to have a door in any other aircraft. Being tall the extra legroom doesn't hurt either...

Aviatrix said...

This happened in newer chain hotel a U.S. town that had a city hall and a fire department and the usual accoutrements of civilization. It must have been scheduled to post during a Blogger service downtime, because I found it stuck in my scheduled box with a past date, when I ran out of posts.

Andrew said...

Just listened to "This American Life" #377, "Scenes from a Recession"

You asked, "How could a fire inspector miss that?" Well, talk about building code violations, the story from Chicago will knock your sox off!

Gottle said...

Tell me about it! I'm a health and safety manager in the UK, and my pertner will confirm that I get a bit embarassingly obsessive about fire exits.

Mind you - there ARE some lifts (at least in UK and USA fire regs) which can be used in a fire: They're called firefighting lifts over here, and in tall buildings are the recommended means of getting people with limited mobility out. They are in fire-protected lift shafts and have extra protection on the power supplies and motors etc, to ensure they'll remain safely usable for an hour after the fire starts.

Although I doubt if the cheap lift in your chain hotel was one of those...don't even know if they're approved under Canada fire codes.

Gottle said...

Oops - just spotted your comment that it was a US hotel, where they definitely do approve firefighting lifts. I still don't suppose that the one you saw was one, though.

Aviatrix said...

Nope, it was a two or three storey hotel, and I think the elevator even had the standard "in case of fire use stairs" sign on it.

Anonymous said...

My first duty on entering a hotel room seems to be misplacing my keycard...THEN I note the exit routes and place my Surefire on the nightstand.