Fires are a common and dangerous occurrence in residential areas, so it is important that before traveling abroad, you are aware of basic fire safety information. You may be traveling to countries or regions that do no not have uniform fire safety regulations. Thus, it is important that you, the individual, take your own precautions and create an emergency plan to prevent any incident that could occur due to fire. Whether residing in a hotel or residential home, for any period of time, it is necessary to establish such plans. Building fire codes differ from country to country. A traveler should always be prepared and know where the exits are and what to do in the event of a fire.
While hotels in the United States have clearly marked emergency exits and fire safety information, your hotel abroad may not. This means it is the responsibility of you, the traveler, to create your own plan upon check-in at a hotel. Having a plan in place reduces the risk of incident in the event of an actual fire.
Precautions to take
- Establish where the nearest exits are from your hotel room
- Ensure there is a smoke detector in the room and that it works
- Test to see if you are able to open the windows
In the event of a fire
- Take your room key with you when evacuating
- Stay low to the ground, as smoke rises
- Before opening doors, check the heat of the door handle using the back of your hand. The level of heat can help in knowing how close the fire is to your door
- Follow along the same wall on which the emergency exit is located
- Do not use elevators
- Try to call the front desk and/or emergency services to report the fire
- If there is no clear exit available, stay in your room. Turn on the bathroom vent, fill the bathtub with water, stuff wet towels around the door, and tie a wet towel around your nose and mouth to filter the smoke
If you are staying in a residential home, it is also important to establish a fire safety plan in case of an emergency. If you are staying with a host family, be sure to discuss both preventative measures and evacuation plans with them.
Precautions to take
- Learn about fire safety standards in the destination country. (Fire Safety Foundation)
- When planning a trip, try to avoid staying on a higher floor. In developed countries, no higher than the 7th floor and in developing countries, no higher than the 3rd floor.
- Upon arrival, check the space for smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, escape ladders (if on a higher floor), etc. Know where these items are in the event they are needed.
- Make a plan with roommates or the individuals you are sharing the living space with. Plan for an evacuation and a meeting point.
- Walk through the home/apartment/hotel room to inspect all possible exits and escape routes.
- When in a hotel or apartment, count the number of doors from the stairwell(s) or exit(s) to your door. In the event of a fire and you will be crawling towards and exit and can count the doors on your way to the exit.
- Make sure windows can be opened easily in the event of a fire. Keep the area clear. If the windows have security bars, check to see if there is an emergency release device.
- Have the number for emergency services programmed into a phone or memorized.
- Have more than one escape planned in the event one exit is blocked or not safe.
In the event of a fire
- When the alarm sounds, get out immediately. Follow the emergency plan created.
- Call emergency services to alert them of the fire.
- Once out of the home, stay out. Do not return to the building until authorities give further instructions.
- Try to choose the evacuation/escape route that is the safest. Be cognizant of any locks or chains on doors. Test door handles or other surfaces with the back of your hand. If it is extremely hot to the touch, try another escape route.
- In some cases, smoke or fire may prevent you from exiting your home or apartment building. To prepare for an emergency like this, practice "sealing yourself in for safety" as part of your home fire escape plan. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from coming in. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in. Call the fire department to report your exact location. Wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth at the window to let the fire department know where you are located. (National Fire Protection Association)
- Stay as low as you can when evacuating. Most people elect to crawl, but if crawling is not an option, one should stay as low as possible, because smoke rises.
- If the exit is inaccessible due to smoke or fire in the hallway, call the fire department to report your exact location and gather in a room with a window to await their arrival.
- Get a good look of the location and check for multiple exits. The way in is not always the best way out. Be prepared to use the closest, safest exit.
- Be cognizant of any locks or chains on doors.
- React immediately. If an alarm sounds, smoke or fire is smelled or visible, or there is another disturbance, exit the building in a quick, orderly fashion.
- Once a building the evacuated, stay out. Do not return inside for any reason. If someone from your group is missing, tell emergency responders immediately.
Wildfires and Seasonal Fires
- Do not burn or start a campfire during extreme droughts or other extreme weather conditions. Most parks and campsites will notify individuals if there is a burn ban in effect.
- If you see a wildfire and have not heard evacuation orders or emergency crews, call the emergency number immediately.
- If there is a wildfire in the vicinity, stay up to date by monitoring the local news and fire department announcements. Depending on the proximity, prepare for evacuation.
- Leave as early as possible. Do not stay or linger once given evacuation orders. Promptly leaving the area helps clear roads for firefighters and crew to fight the fire.
- If evacuating, do not drive into the location of the fire. If needing to go that direction, use an alternate route to avoid driving into smoke and fire.
- Do not return until authorities say it is safe to do so.