You are sleeping in your hotel room when the alarm sounds. Suddenly, people begin to yell in the corridor. Then sirens join the cacophony as fire engines rush toward the hotel.
Quick -- what should you do?
To help hotel guests answer that question, and perhaps save their lives, the National Safety Council has published a step-by-step guide called 'How to Survive a Hotel Fire." It tells how to check out possible fire escape routes when arriving at a hotel and what to do if there is a fire.
The guide is the safety council's answer to the inquiries it received after hotel fires in Las Vegas and other cities this winter killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds of others.
"We were asked what people could do. We went to our files, where we had most of the information, and literally put the guide together over one weekend," said Charles C. Vance, the council's director of public relations. w
The pocket-size guide is illustrated with sketches showing how a traveler can best survive a hotel fire. "Surviving a hotel fire begins right after you check in," the guide says.
Among the points that should be checked, the guide says, are the location of the fire exits and the fire alarm nearest your room. Travelers also should examine the windows to see if they would open in an emergency and if they could lead to an escape.
The guide then recommends four steps to take if a fire starts in another part of your hotel while you are in your room. They are:
Grab your key and go the door. However, if there is any evidence of smoke in the room, roll out of your bed and crawl to the door. Don't stand, because smoke and deadly gases rise.
Feel the door with the palm of your hand. If the door or knob is hot, don't open it. You can stay in your room and still survive a fire. If the door isn't hot, open it slowly and be ready to slam it shut if necessary.
Check the hall. If everything is clear, walk to the nearest exit. If there is any smoke in the corridor, crawl into the hallway. Stay close to the wall. If the nearest exit or stairway is blocked, use an alternate one. Do not use the elevator.
Walk down to the ground level. But if fire or smoke is dense at lower levels, turn around and walk up. When you reach the roof, prop open the door to let the smoke out of the stairwell and to protect yourself from being locked out while waiting for help.
Sometimes hotel guests have a better chance to survive a fire by remaining in their rooms. If the door is hot or if smoke in the hall is dense, for example, the person can stay in the room and still survive the fire the guide says.
In such cases, the person should:
Open the window if there is any smoke.
Let someone know you are in the room. If the phone works, telephone for help, or hang a bedsheet out the window as a signal to firefighters. Don't try to climb down.
Turn on bathroom fan, and fill the tub with water, which might be needed for firefighting.
Wet towels and sheets. Use them to put around doors and cracks if smoke seeps in.
Get fresh air. Make a tent over your head with a blanket at a slightly opened window to get fresh air. If the windows do not open, you may have to break one with a chair or drawer. If heat and flames are rising outside the window from a lower floor, do not breathe the smoke-laden air.
As a last resort, if the room becomes too hot, you may be forced to make for the best exit, the guide says. In such cases, remember to keep low.
Response to the guides has set a record as hotels have stocked up to distribute the guides to their guests. Vance said the 600,000 copies distributed since Jan. 15 represents the largest demand in recent history for a single item of information from the council.