According to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an average of 6,300 hotel and motel fires break out every year. While experts admit the risk of fire is, indeed, much greater at home, there is still very good reason to be prepared for a fire while traveling.
"Usually, a hotel is not a place a guest is very familiar with," says Julie Reynolds of the NFPA, "so if there is a fire, it can take you much longer to get out."
To protect yourself, the fire preparation process should begin when you make your hotel reservation. Be sure to ask what kind of fire protection equipment the hotel employs. Reynolds says it's best to secure reservations at establishments with automatic fire sprinklers in both the guest rooms and corridors, and with smoke detectors in the rooms.
Upon your arrival, ask the check-in clerk exactly what the fire alarm sounds like (such as whether it's a voice warning or siren) so you'll recognize it should you hear it. Once in your room, review the emergency plan posted on the back of the door detailing the location of emergency exits. Then, take the time to explore the two closest exits, counting the number of doors between you and them in case a fire should impair your view.
In the event of a fire, check your room door to see if it's warm. If so, experts advise staying put in your room until it's safe for a rescue. If not, exit the room (remembering to take your room key with you) and proceed to the closest exit.
If you encounter smoke in the stairwell, use the alternate exit. If that isn't safe either, return to your room and turn off the heater or air conditioner, stuff the crack under the front door with a wet towel, and hang sheets out the window so firefighters can spot you.
Although it won't be easy, experts say the best advice is to stay calm during a fire. "Try to avoid panicking," says Reynolds, "that way, you can take charge and protect yourself."