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All hotels are required by law to provide their guests with a list of specific emergency procedures. Because one of the most common emergency situation in a hotel is a fire, emergency procedures typically include a detailed map of the floor the room is on and an outline of the route to the closest exit. Emergency preparedness also includes a list of what to do once you've evacuated the hotel as well as what to do in the event that you're prevented from evacuating.
Hotels often post a room-specific evacuation map on the back of the door to each room. The nearest exit is marked, as are all other exits on the floor in case the closest one is blocked. Hotels that don't put individualized maps in each room are required by law to provide general floor plan maps. Front desk staff may highlight the nearest stairwells and exits to a guestroom on a paper copy.
Emergency evacuation procedures begin by moving to exit when an alarm sounds, even if you suspect it's a drill. Before opening the door, you should feel it for heat and look for smoke coming underneath the door. Barring any smoke or flames, hotel procedures dictate that you should exit via the safest, shortest route possible. If there's heavy smoke, you should stay low to the ground. Never use elevators during an emergency evacuation; they may become stuck mid-descent, or the shaft may fill with smoke. Also, the fire department may need to use the elevators to assist immobile people.
Emergency procedures for becoming trapped in an area or room inside a hotel begin by first closing as many doors as possible between you and the fire and then sealing the area by placing water-soaked towels and sheets over all vents and door cracks. Use the phone, if it works, to call 9-1-1 and report the fire and your location in the building. Hanging a sheet or a noticeable item of clothing from the window signals your location, whether or not you're able to use the phone to call for help.
Breaking windows or opening them more than a few inches can invite flames and smoke from other openings inside. Fresher air is always near the floor, so protocol dictates that you stay low. In addition, placing a wet cloth over your mouth and nose helps you breathe better in a smoky environment.
Often, but not always, hotel emergency procedures request that evacuated guests gather in a predetermined area--usually in front of the hotel. It's important to report yourself to the person who's taking roll call of all of the guests on the register so rescue workers won't go into the burning building looking for someone who has already evacuated.
In situations where it's unclear whether or not the fire department has been called, you should call 9-1-1 if there's a way to do so. If you believe someone is trapped in the hotel, never attempt to go back inside. Rather, tell a member of the police or fire department.