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Fire Safety While Traveling
Fire Safety Tips for Travel Locations

by Courtney Caldwell

What to do if a fire breaks out in any
of these locations!

Death by fire is probably one of the worst possible ways a human being can die, not only for the victim, but for the surviving family as well. A harsh statement indeed, especially in light of the fire tragedy at The Station in West Warwick, RI, an event now deemed the fourth worst fire in American history.

The point is, however, that it’s time we take off the kid gloves and get real. Let not 100 souls die in vain. Instead, let their sacrifice serve as a symbol to save generations to come. And it’s up to us to make sure that happens.

Most of us never even think about fire or give it a second thought. We worry about crossing the street and getting hit by a bus. We teach our children never to talk to strangers. We fear getting on airplanes in case of a terrorist attack. But who ever considers the danger of fire when we enter a hotel, a restaurant or nightclub, even a wedding banquet hall?

Fire Safety in Any LocationAll of these establishments are designed to hold dozens, if not hundreds, of people to provide entertainment and pleasure. The last thing on our minds is where the exit signs are or planning an escape route. We innately trust the owners to take care of these pesky little details so we can enjoy our night out. Well, not anymore. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to take control of our own destiny. What’s more, it’s our responsibility as parents to begin adding to the long list of safety tips we teach our children to identify exits everywhere they go.

Take control. There are many things we can do to honor the people who lost their lives in Rhode Island and ensure the prevention of future loss of life in such horrific situations. In addition to teaching and training our young, as adults we can do the following when patronizing any establishment:

Hotels: Most reputable hotels provide brochures and TV monitors that clearly describe what to do in case of a hotel fire. Watch the TV promo or read the brochure as one of the first things you do when you enter the room. Know where the exits are. Check them out to make sure doors are not locked and are easily accessible. Which is the closest exit to your room? If that’s blocked what are your other choices? What if you have to stay in your room? Would you now what to do and not do? When that very loud, earth shattering alarm goes off in the middle of the night while you’re in a dead sleep, you need to act quickly, not try to figure out what to do next.

Nightclubs: All nightclubs, whether they’re up to code or not, are a hotbed for disaster. First you have a large crowd. People are drinking and smoking. Couple that with an under 35 crowd at most clubs and almost anything can and will happen at any time. Assume nothing especially that nothing will happen. Check out where ALL the exits are, not just one, and test them yourself. It will take only minutes, minutes that could save your life when you have only minutes to get out. Know where the windows are in case that ends up being your only route of escape. And rethink your stay if there’s no sprinkler system visible. No band is worth your life.

Restaurants and Banquet Halls: The same holds true here. Restaurants deal with fire and gas kitchens. Anything could happen -- from a fire to an explosion. Many exits could be blocked. Know where ALL the exits are and which are closest to where you are seated so you don’t find yourself in a bottleneck situation in case of an emergency. If you’re in the back of the restaurant, away from the front entrance, what are you routes of escape? Are there visible fire extinguishers on the walls? Remember, it’s the herd mentality that takes over in a panic situation. You want to be prepared, not one of the herd.

Airplanes & Airports: The beauty of airplanes is that flight attendants point out the exits and other safety features during the take off process. Granted, they do have a seated, relatively attentive audience, and if you do crash, it’s not likely you’ll be using the exits anyway. But at least the effort is made in case of a crash landing. Airports have many exit routes but who really pays attention? Concourses are long and narrow. In a panic situation people will quickly and easily bottleneck into one end. With most airports requiring a two-hour advance check-in, there’s plenty of time for many things to occur but also plenty of time for you to check out the exits. Just do it!

While you may be familiar with your local establishments because you frequent them, you are likely not familiar with these types of places when you travel. Because they are unfamiliar is all the more reason to check them out. Make it the first thing you do when you enter any building, and be sure to ask where the exits are if they’re not clearly marked. Complacency is your worst enemy.

Most fires, it seems, happen in the heat of the night when it’s dark, when we’re sleeping, or drinking, or otherwise engaged in joyous activities. Switching your mindset from sleep mode or party animal to making life and death decisions in a split second is a huge leap during a dangerous and panic-stricken moment. If you’re not prepared, you could likely make all the wrong decisions when danger knocks. Your second worst enemy is thinking it will never happen to you.

Bone up on safety articles and TV shows. Not only does RTM provide an entire Safety & Security section for travelers, Court TV hits the nail on the head with their series “Safety Challenge.” Hosted by ABC News legal correspondent Cynthia McFadden, the Court TV Safety Challenge brings viewers face-to-face with real-life situations, confronting critical safety issues that can arise during various situations. Among its challenges, the premier show will address hotel fires. However, what viewers will learn is how these tips can apply to all situations in any building.

The show does more that offer tips. In fact, the interactive Q&A format allows viewers to test their knowledge, leaving them empowered and more prepared to handle a crisis. Safety experts give viewers advice and essential tips on how to protect themselves in an emergency. And should you miss the new season’s premier on March 19, Court TV plans to air several more safety challenges throughout the year.

We can’t stress enough that your life is your responsibility. As we’ve seen, all the happiness and success in the world can end in just three minutes. Take it upon yourself to learn, explore, and teach others about basic safety in case of an emergency. Take the time to look around when you enter an establishment to ensure that emergency information is available. Submit your own safety tip of the week in your local papers, newsletters, or church flyer. Take control. No contribution is too small.

Let the heat of the night remain a great movie, not the legacy of lives snuffed out.