Most people have a home evacuation plan. They know how to get out of their house safely and to call 911.
But having a hotel evacuation plan is just as important and it's a lesson that guests at the Center City Sheraton learned the hard way when reports of smoke coming from the building’s basement forced an evacuation at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The evacuation of the 757-room hotel took more than ninety minutes, a dangerously long, but quite common amount of time, according to Executive Philadelphia Fire Chief Peter Crespo.
“People go to restaurants and crowded nightclubs and they forget to look for emergency exits and they forget the fire exits and they only remember the one where they came in,” Crespo said. “It creates a bottleneck effect.”
That “bottleneck effect” can be avoided, says Crespo, if individuals observe their surroundings and follow this advice.
Before you enter a hotel, Crespo recommends taking notice of the size of the hotel and the location of the fire exits and escapes on the outside of the building. In the event of an emergency, it is important to know where these exits lead.
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Once inside the building, guests should continue to look for emergency exits, as well as evacuation plans.
“Evacuation plans are supposed to be located behind every door of the hotel room,” Crespo said. “So close the hotel room door, and look behind it and that is where the escape plan should be displayed.”
The escape plan is an aerial diagram of the floor, color coded to show guests where they are, where the fire escape is, and where the closest pull station is. Those diagrams, approved by the Philadelphia Fire Department, are also located at every elevator. They display the quickest route to a safe location.
“If you’re staying with a family in separate rooms or floors, discuss an assembly point,” suggests the Chief. “In case [you are] separated in an emergency, meet there.”
Crespo also advises checking for emergency equipment, like fire extinguishers, near your room.
Hotel staff undergoes fire drills and fire safety training, but often hotel guests outnumber hotel staff.
“It is up to you as a hotel guest to be responsible for knowing the floor diagram, the evacuation procedure and where the exits are located."