Phoenix Bird


By: Captain RH Kauffman
Los Angeles County Fire Department

Have you ever been in a hotel during a fire? It's a frightening experience, and you should start thinking about it. For instance, how would you have acted if you had been in one of these fires?

The Thomas Hotel, San Francisco, CA - 20 DEAD
The Gulf Hotel, Houston, TX - 54 DEAD
The La Salle Hotel, Chicago, IL - 61 DEAD
The Wincoff Hotel, Atlanta, GA - 119 DEAD

Of course, there have been hundreds more with thousands of deaths, but I think you're getting the drift. The majority of those people did not have to die.

My wife has been in the airline industry close to 8 years and while accompanying her on a trip recently, I learned how ill prepared she was for a hotel fire. It's not her fault: it's quite common. Hotels, however, have no excuse for being ill prepared, but believe me, you cannot depend on the staff in case of a fire. History has shown some hotels won't even call the fire Department. I have been a fire fighter in Los Angeles for over 10 years and have seen many people die needlessly in building fires. It's sad because most could have saved themselves.

What you're about to read is roughly the same "briefing" I have given my wife on hotel safety. I do not intend to "play down" the aspects of hotel fires or soft-soap the language. It's critical that you remember how to react, and, if I shake you a little, maybe you will.

Contrary to what you have seen on television or in the movies, fire is not likely to chase you down and burn you to death. It's the by-products of fire that will kill you. Super heated fire gases (smoke) and panic will almost always be the cause of death long before the fire arrives if it ever does. This is very important. You must know how to avoid smoke and panic to survive a hotel fire. With this in mind, here are a few tips:

Well, the rest is up to you. Only you can condition yourself to react in a hotel emergency. You can be well prepared by developing the habits we've talked about.