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11.19.18 – EverythingLubbock.com –  Wes Rapaport

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As millions travel this holiday season, safety officials are warning Texans about what to do if a fire breaks out in a hotel you’re staying in.

The Texas Department of Insurance released a public service announcement with hotel fire safety tips.

“Taking a few minutes to think about safety at the start of your hotel stay can help keep you and your family safe,” the video’s narrator says.

The agency, which oversees the state Fire Marshal’s office, released the video ahead of the busy holiday season in which 4.1 million Texans are expected to travel. According to AAA Texas, that is up 4.7 percent from last year.

“Every year there’s thousands of fires at hotels,” Texas Department of Insurance spokesperson Ben Gonzalez said. “Usually, the average was about 3,500 to 3,900 fires at hotels. Hopefully, some of those are minor, but the dangerous part is that you are in an unfamiliar situation. You do not know which way to go.”

“We tell folks all the time about planning their exits at home, you need to do that in the road too,” Gonzalez said. He mentioned 55 percent of hotel fires start in cooking accidents, either in in-room kitchens or hotel restaurants. Other sources of fires in hotels include smoking, overheated laundry facilities, or appliances people pack and cause electrical shorts, Gonzalez added.

The agency recommends asking hotel staff upon check-in what the fire alarm sounds like and identify the closest exit when you get to your room.

“Count the rooms or the doors to the exit when you get there,” Gonzalez recommended. “If the hallway is full of smoke you want to know which way to go and how far is gonna take you to get to that exit.”
Austin Fire Department division chief Palmer Buck said fire crews are constantly training to keep up with the different types of hotels: single or two-story drive-in motels, mid-rises of about five stories or less, and high-rises with dozens of levels.

“Where the people could be the biggest help to us though is when the alarms go off to evacuate, and evacuate quickly and not take a bunch of stuff with them and get out, and we are going to get up and take care of the problem and get them back in there as quick as we can,” Buck said. He recommended taking your hotel key with you in case you try to get out but it becomes unsafe and you need to return to your room.

If it’s not safe to leave your room, the Texas Department of Insurance suggested stuffing wet towels around the door and calling the fire department to alert firefighters to your location, and wave a light-colored cloth or towel near a window so rescue crews can find you.

Officials said some of these measures were extreme, but taking the extra precautions to be prepared in case of an emergency can end up saving lives.

“You’ve been in a long drive or flight, plop down the bed, take a shower,” Gonzalez said. “We are saying take one or two minutes to look in the back of the (hotel room) door or where they have the little map. Find your exits so that way you can relax and keep your family safe.”