A Fiery Christmas Day
It's always nice to take a few days off to unwind. However, keep in mind that you still have to take precautions even during vacations. Enjoy your trip, but keep safe.
My family had survived a hotel fire during one of our yearly family vacations. This incident happened many years ago. I was still a teenager who didn't give much thought about accidents and misfortunes. I went to Taiwan with my family consisting of Dad, Mom, and twin sister. It was our second time in the country. My maternal uncle helped us find a cheap place to stay in. No one would have thought that on our first night there, we would wake up at an ungodly hour realizing there was a fire. After we escaped from the building, we just stood in the streets for hours. It was Christmas day.
Read on to know more about my experience. I'd also share some hotel fire safety tips at the end of this page.
The following year, my family had become wiser. We asked an uncle to find a lodging for us. He was living in Taipei at that time. He knew about our limited funds so he made sure that our lodging was really cheap (but still livable of course). He fetched us from the airport and brought us to the hotel. We got our key with an old-fashioned rectangular keychain (there were no keycards yet) and headed to our room. Our room wasn't much. Nevertheless, I was still impressed. It was dim-lighted and looked cozy. I played with whatever I could play with - lamps, chairs, faucets - before we went out for dinner (I was a childish teen). My uncle brought us to his small apartment nearby. For some reason, I did something that I'd never done before - I memorized the route from our hotel to his apartment. After a filling dinner, we brought sodas, takeout dim sum, and a pack of watermelon seeds (which has always been a favorite snack of mine). We hanged a few garments in the closet before we went to bed.
Looking for My Uncle's Apartment
There was no way to enter the building. The main door was always locked and could only be opened by the tenants. There was also no guard so if we wanted to see my uncle, we would
have to wait outside until someone opens the door.
Meanwhile, a local recommended a nice hostel for us to stay in. The owner/receptionist (or whoever she was) was very hospitable. She learned about the fire and reassured us that the hostel had a good escape plan. She gave us a little tour and showed as the emergency exit/terrace in our room. We felt a lot safer. Having said that, I stayed awake for a few hours before fatigue took over.
When I woke up, my mom had already contacted my uncle. It took her a while to reach him. I learned later on that when she went to his apartment, he had already left to visit us. As expected, he got extremely shocked when he saw the slightly-burnt building. Good thing my mom managed to leave him a message in his apartment. That was how he learned about our new lodging. For the next few days of our stay, my uncle would visit us every night and bring us some snacks. He had also toured us in his free days.
Despite this scary experience, I still consider myself lucky. The flames had already been extinguished before things got more dangerous. I didn't get to witness casualties, and everyone in the hotel was safe. That event didn't change how I feel about hotels. But it does remind me to always take extra precaution and as much as possible, to stay in reputable lodgings.
Hotel Fire Safety Tips
- Upon your arrival to the hotel, study the evacuation plan in your room. It is usually posted behind your door. Make a mental note of each exits that you encounter on your way to your room. You never know where a fire will start so it's important to know more than one exits in case one of them becomes inaccessible.
- Put all your important belongings such as money, credit cards, keys, and passports all in one place. In case of emergencies, you can easily grab your bag and leave.
- Your hotel room is not your home. Do not hang all your clothes in the closet. It's better to keep most of your things inside your suitcase. I would usually set aside my outfit for the next day the night before so I wouldn't have to rummage through my luggage in the morning. It's not only efficient, it would also save you time packing when you have to leave.
- Bring a flashlight with you. It may come in handy during an emergency (especially when power goes out).
- Do not choose a lodging only because it's cheap (guilty of this). Do your research before booking an accommodation.