Over the years, I’ve had to evacuate a hotel because of fire alarms at least three times that I can remember. None of those incidents involved a serious fire — the causes were along the lines of overheated coffeemakers — but it might have made me think.
It didn’t, really. My fire safety precautions have consisted only of locating the stairways when I stay on a high floor and always having a small flashlight in my luggage. I’ve never tried to find out when choosing or checking into a hotel whether it has sprinklers in the guest rooms. But after reading a recent Associated Press story on the subject, I’m going to pay a lot more attention to that detail.
The story explained that many hotels in the United States are allowed to operate without sprinklers because they were built before sprinkler systems were required. In many cases of fatal hotel fires, including one that killed four students in a motel outside Birmingham in January, a sprinkler system would have saved lives.
The story also described how the federal government requires its employees to stay in fire-safe hotels when they are on business trips, and that means buildings with more than three stories must have automatic sprinkler systems with sprinkler heads in each guest room. And it provided a link to the U.S. Fire Administration Hotel/Motel Fire-Safety List, a database of hotels around the country that are certified fire-safe.
I’ve added that one to my bookmarks.
There’s another reason this issue catches my attention. This week, my husband and I will be checking into the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a name that is infamous in hotel fire history.
In 1980, a fire killed 87 people at the MGM Grand, which did not have sprinklers in guest rooms. That building is now Ballys, and a nearby building became the new MGM Grand.
Both hotels are now certified as fire-safe, with fully automatic sprinkler systems throughout, including in guest rooms. I feel better knowing that.