By Brittany Stovall and WAKEUP CALL
As summer approaches and families make vacation plans, the Cookeville Fire Department urges citizens to keep fire safety in mind while staying in hotels.
“A lot of it is just being aware of your surroundings and knowing where the exits are,” said Chief Roger Fuqua of the Cookeville Fire Department.
As soon as hotel guests check into their rooms, Fuqua recommends they learn where the nearest emergency exits are located.
“Hopefully they can see a minimum of two exits and make sure that the signs are illuminated and they can easily be read,” Fuqua said.
Also recommended is to open exit doors to make sure they open easily, see the exit pathways are clear and check stairwells to make sure they are not blocked.
Guests should also count the number of doors from their rooms to an exit in case visibility is lost during a fire — a practice Fuqua always follows when staying away from home.
“I count the doors to the exit so if I have to leave and there’s not electricity or it’s smokey up to the ceiling, I know how many doors down to the exit it is,” he said.
Fuqua also said there should be a fire extinguisher on every floor and alarm pull stations in the hallways, and guests should learn where those are located.
Once inside the room, make sure there is a smoke detecter and also read the fire escape route posted on the back of the hotel room door — always have or know of a fire escape plan. If there isn’t a plan posted, guests can request one from the front desk.
“They need to look at the fire exit plan… It should give you an escape route and to the closest exit,” Fuqua said.
If an alarm sounds, hotel occupants should always exit their rooms and close doors behind them as they go, according to the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s Office. Patrick Daly, manager of Cookeville hotel La Quinta Inn & Suites, said hotel clerks work to make sure guests are aware of a given situation should the fire alarm sound.
“First thing we find out is what the cause of the alarm is. But if in fact it is an alarm (for a fire), we have everybody exit to the front of the building or go to an exit,” Daly said.
“The hotel will notify guests if it’s a false alarm so they can go back to their rooms.”
According to Daly, his hotel is equipped with a 24-hour monitoring alarm service that is connected to a call center.
Once activated, the system will kick on the fire alarm and a panel will show the desk clerk which room the issue is coming from. The clerk will then try to speak with the guest in that room to see if there is a possible fire or another issue that may have set off the system.
“At that point in time, our desk clerk’s responsibilities are to check the room and to see what’s going on,” Daly said.
“If we do not have an answer from that room, we immediately go up to that room.”
If further investigation determines there is a fire, the hotel will attempt to contact guests in rooms to alert them the building needs to be evacuated.
Other fire safety tips for hotel provided by the State Fire Marshal’s Office include:
• Stay in a hotel or vacation rental you know is installed with smoke alarms and fire sprinklers;
• Those who are hearing impaired or deaf may want to ask about booking a handicapped accessible room, which should be equipped with visual or audible fire alarm equipment.
There are also portable smoke alarms the hearing impaired can buy and take on their travels.
• Keep a flashlight near your bed;
• Don’t smoke in bed;
• If a fire starts in your room, quickly exit (while shutting the door behind you), activate the alarm at a pull station and tell the front desk;
• If your room is on an upper floor, use the stairs and never attempt to use an elevator;
• Before leaving your room, you can check the hallway for fire by touching the door with the back of your hand.
If the door is cool, open it slowly while bracing against it in case you need to close the door quickly.
If it’s safe to exit your room, then crawl on the floor under the smoke to the closest exit.
• Return to your room if all routes are blocked. Put wet towels in front of the doorway cracks and also over the vents, shut off all fans and air conditioners, call the fire department, and wait by the window while signaling for help.
• And take your room key with you when evacuating the building — if there is no way to escape after leaving your room, you may need to go back.