Fire Safety Advice For Travellers

In the wake of the hostel fire in Chile that took the lives of young travellers, it's important to be alert and to know what to do in the event of a fire at your hotel. Robert Carmichael from Flarebrand advises.

By Robert Carmichael on 23 March 2007 in Travel Articles


1. When checking into the hotel/hostel, ask the reception desk about fire safety measures. Smoke alarms combined with sprinkler systems are best.

2. Boycott hotels that don’t bother with your safety.

3. As soon as you get to your room, take the room key, leave the room and walk the corridor to the exits counting the doors. Work out two escape routes – one might be inaccessible in a fire.

4. In the event of a fire, do not expect to see the exit signs. These are almost always placed near ceiling level, and because smoke rises, they will not be visible. Therefore make a mental note NOW of their location.

5. Your other option to escape a fire is through the bedroom window – but that will be impossible if the windows have burglar bars on them. Therefore beware of burglar bars.

6. Beware also those rooms on or above the fourth floor. If you have to jump, you stand very little chance of surviving a fall onto concrete or tar from above the third floor.

7. Carry a portable smoke detector such as FlareSafe that – when armed – will warn you of a fire.


1. In the event of a fire, the most important thing to remember is this: DO NOT PANIC. Those who panic are far more likely to die. Your chances of survival are much higher if you can keep a clear head.

2. Remember that in a fire it is generally smoke that kills. People are rarely burned to death unless first overcome by smoke. Smoke is your main enemy and you must take all measures to avoid it.

3. Assess the situation calmly. Before leaving your room, place your hand against the door and check for heat. If there is excessive heat, this is probably because there is a fire behind the door. In this situation, DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR.

4. If you decide it is safe to leave your room, do not take your possessions. However you must take your room key because you may well need to get back into your room to escape smoke or fire in the corridor. NEVER USE THE ELEVATOR.

5. When you leave your room, remember that smoke and heat rise and will force oxygen to the floor. Therefore when you are in the corridor you should stay low. You should also stay close to the wall to avoid panicking guests. Count the doors to the exit, and leave that way.

6. If the corridor outside your room is filled with smoke, or if the exit corridor is filled with smoke, do not attempt to go through it. Remember that smoke is your enemy – in this case you are better off returning to your room.

7. If you have to return to your room or if it was not safe to leave your room in the first place, then fill the bath/basin with water and use dampened bedsheets, towels or clothes wedged in door cracks to stop smoke entering.

8. Check the walls and doors for heat. Throw water on them if you can feel heat.

9. Do NOT break the window – you may need to close it to stop smoke coming in.

10. Signal rescuers from the window using a torch or a white sheet.


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