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Emergency evacuation in a hotel: how and what to pack…

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    Emergency evacuation in a hotel: how and what to pack…

    Hello Fellow Bihnions!!

    @GoStanford: this is for you !!

    Originally posted by GoStanford
    Wait a minute - I need to hear more about this - I try to read the safety instructions/map for the hotel room, but I would like to know what you recommend based on your experience and how frantic was it?!
    GoStanford initially asked Poker Face a question in the thread “Introduce yourself”, about how she evacuated her burning Bostonian hotel last month with her precious load of Nordic Tom Bihn bags.

    Poker Face thought it would be nice to create a new thread about this very serious topic of emergency evacuation. Well, let’s reassure everyone here, Poker Face hotel didn’t burn down, it was only a false (but scary) alarm.

    Poker Face has had two emergency evacuations in the last 6 months while she was in the US for business (read here: totally jet-lagged). The first one occurred before she discovered Tom Bihn bags, and the second one after she equipped herself with an Aeronaut and a travel tray.

    The first thing to know is that Poker Face almost always gets a room near the emergency exit (it seems that it’s where they put solo traveller wanting a king bed and a quiet room far from elevator/vending & ice machines), which is very practical when she needs to evacuate .
    The second thing to know is that Poker Face is not yet a “one bag” traveller, so she always has a classic luggage that goes in plane belly (and that gets lost, sometimes) and a carry-on.

    First evacuation: room on the 10th floor of a classic chain hotel in Philly, or what not to do in case of an evacuation…

    It’s 8.30 AM, Poker Face just returned from her breakfast and is embellishing herself in front of the bathroom mirror. Suddenly, the fire alarm goes off… Poker face hesitates: is it a false alarm? She opens the door and sees people screaming and running towards the emergency exit, she almost get stomped by a herd of hysterical hippos and understands that it must be a bad situation, so she shall vacate her room pronto…

    Poker face grabs all her important personal belongings scattered on the bed/night table…, her computer (in the mini-safe), her contact lenses (where the hell did she put her glasses??), her camera… then tries to stuff all that in her superb & very chic rolling duffle. Aouch, too small… Well not a problem, she stuffs the rest in a backpack and takes the emergency exit.

    The stairs are overcrowded already, and it’s impossible to go beyond level 3… Poker Face is sweating because the rolling part of her rolling duffle is pretty useless in the stairs, and it is becoming damn heavy. People are pushing as they want to evacuate, but the zombies in front decide to wait (maybe it’s a false alarm after all, and it’s kinda cold outside in wintery Philly…). Argh!!! The roar intensifies, and Poker Face suddenly regrets to have schlepped a heavy bag with her, as her stretched arms now resemble those of an orang-utan. Three minutes of pushing later (Poker Face made it to the second floor!), security arrives and tells everyone that it was a false alarm. As the elevators are still blocked, Poker Face takes her heavy rolling duffle back on the 10th floor. That’s 8 flights of stairs, Poker Face almost gets a heart attack when she arrives in her room.

    Second evacuation: second floor in a semi-posh motel in the Boston area, or what to do in case of an evacuation…

    It’s 5 AM, Poker Face is sleeping like a princess in her fluffy bed.

    Her travel tray sits on the night table, stuffed with room and car keys, wallet, pocket camera, passport and glasses.

    Her aeronaut, containing all her very important earthly belongings lays on the main table. After the disastrous Philly evacuation six months ago, Poker Face learnt a lot and decided that she would put all the important stuff in one place, including her contact lenses, plus a spare set of clothes and underwear in a small pouch (a non Tom Bihn pouch, I must admit…).

    A vague buzzing sound wakes her up. Certainly another stupid idiot who forgot he/she had set his/her alarm clock so early: come on man, wake up and switch off you stupid clock, there are people trying to sleep here!... As cursing does not work (the buzzing sound continues), Poker Face stumbles out of her royal bed and reaches for the light. Half unconscious (and totally jet-lagged), she decides to check the corridor. She opens the door and is instantly horrified by the terrible noise she hears: it’s the fire alarm again (BTW those sound proof doors are really magical!), this time with a blinking red alarm light show. Poker Face is suddenly very awake. She also smells something weird: it’s time to evacuate...

    Poker Face grabs her travel tray, her co-pilot (with the computer) and stuffs these in her aeronaut. She zips everything and she runs out with her precious Nordic A45 on the shoulder. The load is barely noticeable as she uses the absolute shoulder strap. She is among the first ones out!! In her PJ, but safely out! After 30 minutes, a few fire trucks and police cars, many firemen carrying heavy axes, the fire alarm stops. It turned out someone over flooded his toilet, which created a stream of water in the bathroom, then a mini flood that went through a hole in the floor and directly on an electric cabinet located one floor below. Long story short: that was the origin of the smoky weird smell…

    Lessons learned (without becoming paranoid):

    1. It’s important to locate the two nearest emergency exits when you arrive in your hotel. And also to have a general idea of where you are exactly in the building, as the location will most probably unfamiliar. It only takes a few minutes, and it helps to have a plan B. Some hotels are huge and the corridors very dark. Let’s imagine there’s smoke in there, you’ll never find your way out… Evacuation is a stressful situation, so it’s better to have prepared something. And the little maps on the hotel door are generally poorly made.

    2. You should have all very important items in one place and one place only, so you can grab it in case of problem: your keys, glasses, wallet, passport, phone… (Poker Face uses her travel tray for that purpose).

    3. Your carry-on should contain the other very important items that don’t fit in the travel tray: I mean all the things you absolutely need to have. This is especially true if you are abroad and alone. It may be your medications, your contact lenses, your computer (or your favourite teddy bear)... And also a spare set of clothes: Poker Face always has a set in her Aeronaut when she travels so it’s no problem for her. Keep it simple, don’t overstuff your carry-on. The aeronaut when not fully stuffed is not very heavy so Poker face can easily take it with her. Poker Face generally locks her precious Aeronaut in her luggage during the day (Some people suspect that she’s afraid someone might steal her wonderful Nordic aeronaut bag…).

    4. Poker Face places her shoes next to her Aeronaut, so she finds them immediately. You don’t want to evacuate barefeet.

    5. If you hear something, go have a look in the corridor (except if your door is warm, in that case you may be in trouble) and evacuate ASAP. Especially if you are in a high rise building: there may be a long way down (and you never know how many people will be in front of you). It will most probably be a false alarm, but just in case…

    That was Poker Face return of experience. Poker face is pretty sure she can improve, but in the meantime, that’s all she can say.

    Does any one of you guys have encountered similar situations? What advices would you give to your fellow Bihnions?

    I hope to have entertained you a little bit, all the events related here really did happen!

    Have a nice day!!

    Poker Face
    Last edited by Poker Face; 07-25-2014, 02:30 PM.
    Big fan of Nordic dyneema (aeronaut, PCSB, PCBP, TT, LSB, SSB, SE, SCB, MCB, co-pilot, synapse 19). OK, so where am I going to put all that stuff...

    This is very helpful and a reminder to us that STUFF HAPPENS when you least expect it. It is very helpful yo hear about your thinking/planning process regarding your belongings and how to manage that. I can see that there needs to be an end to my strewing of clothing and other things in my hotel room.
    The stockpile keeps growing...I'm in serious trouble.


      Thank you for sharing this! Sorry it happened twice but glad you are OK and found that the TB products helped your efficient process the second time.

      I think it is true for travel that we all hope such steps aren't needed but best to be prepared reasonably.

      I got goose bumps just imagining this....


        The original campus of my college burned down in an epic fire about 100 years ago, so they were big on teaching us how to escape during a fire and ruthless in terms of fire drills. When the drill happened we were expected to get out within a minute, have on a pair of shoes, our coat and a towel in hand and lined up away from the dorm. Every year we had one mid-winter drill in a snowstorm or during the middle of the night. It meant that I got used to laying out my shoes, towel, handbag, and coat every night before bed. No one wants to be outside sans coat or shoes in a foot of snow.

        Then during my junior or senior year I remember there was a huge fire in a Hong Kong (I think, could have been another large Chinese city) hotel. Lots of people barely got out, but there were three women who made it our with their towel, shoes, handbags/briefcases and a jacket. Turns out they were all businesswomen who were alumni of my college. No joke. It was in the alumni magazine. So the old fire drills had stayed with them.

        Anyway my point is, like Pokerface says, it's all about practice. I always set out my shoes, a jacket or coat and bag in case of fire when I travel, frankly, when I go anywhere. At home I keep shoes, a bag and a mental note as to where the pets are so I can grab them and get out. Hopefully I will never have to use this mental knowledge, but better safe than sorry.
        I grew up in so. cal, so earthquake country. We always keep shoes by the bed because a large quake could strike at night (Northridge, Landers, anyone?) and there could be broken class around before you realize it.
        (And some of you may be wondering why we were required to have a towel on hand-- in case of fire you can use it to protect your face or to beat out flames if you need it.)

        Thanks Pokerface for your reflections!



          Thank you for your reflections on emergency evac.
          Living in earthquake country (Los Angeles) where us could be rocked out of bed, (it has happened to me) I find your thoughts hitting very close to home.

          So tell me, with your record, do you avoid cruise ships?


            I was once evacuated from London's Central YMCA gym, after dark, in the middle of winter, halfway through a yoga class. As I recall, it was due to a bomb scare. I was lucky enough to be wearing full length trousers and had with me a long sleeve top and some trainers, but we weren't allowed to collect our other bits and pieces.

            The guys I felt sorry for in that situation were those who were having a swim when the evacuation happened, and spent about 4 hours in their swimwear with foil space blankets, mostly outdoors at night in the middle of winter just off Tottenham Court Road. And they didn't even have time to get towels to dry off...
            Last edited by PaulT00; 07-26-2014, 02:26 AM.


              Oh oh oh! I have a story!! And it takes place in Philly too!! (What is it with Philly hotels, anyway?? ) So, we were in Philly for my DH's company's holiday party, and we were staying downtown in a nice hotel right next to the (then brand-new) concert hall. It was December 2001. The morning after the party, alarms start ringing at 6 AM. I hop up, put on my shoes (paranoia/preparedness is a gene in my family), and carefully feel the door for heat before opening it a crack to see what the fuss is about. Other guests have opened their doors too. One woman waves her hands airily, saying, "It's a false alarm," before shutting the door again. I don't believe her and turn to DH, saying "We have to go!" (Remember, this is just three months after 9/11.)

              I grab my long coat, my purse, and a bottle of water (why, I don't know), fasten my shoes, and urge DH to hurry up. We exit the hotel room and walk to the nearest emergency exit. The signs point up, so we follow the arrows - and end up on the roof. No good. We turn around, head back to our floor - which is thankfully still not smoke-filled - and find an alternate exit. This one appears to be the original staircase of the hotel from before elevators were in vogue, because it has wide marble steps and a graceful brass rail. As we descend, suddenly through another door bursts an Asian man carrying two rollaboards and a musical instrument on his back. He moves quickly despite his load. DH offers to help with one of the suitcases and the man graciously accepts.

              Finally we make it all the way down and emerge... into the breakfast room of the hotel. Startled guests look up at this odd trio: us, in our PJs covered by winter coats, and an elegant man in business attire. The maitre d' informs us that some burnt toast had set off the fire alarm. We laugh. DH hands the other evacuee his suitcase, they nod to each other, and he departs. Then DH turns to me and says, "I think that was Yo-yo Ma!" And I slug him on the shoulder. "WHY didn't you tell me??!"

              (It WAS Yo-yo Ma - he had performed the night before at the new Kimmel Center.)

              Next time I will not only have my essentials in the TT, I will make sure to have my SA next to the bed, ready for escape! (And I always make the kids identify the nearest exits, counting the number of doors (or seats, on the plane) so that we can get out by feel.)
              Last edited by haraya; 07-25-2014, 09:15 PM.


                I think this is a very important topic!
                I can't fall asleep unless my important stuff (wallet, flashlight, etc.) is packed up in my everyday bag, sitting by the door, and my glasses and phone are next to me on a bedside table. I'm much more vigilant about this when I'm on vacation, and of course if I'm out of the country that bag includes my passport. Keeping shoes and a towel nearby, as mentioned above, is also a good idea!
                However, I've never dealt with a night-time evacuation or drill. Thankfully.
                All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
                Edmund Burke


                  This is a great thread. Thanks Poker Face and others for sharing your experiences. When test packing for a trip to London, I thought about this type of scenario as I contemplated what kind of PJs to pack. I had planned on keeping some essentials close at hand in case of an emergency and now I definitely will! I have learned so much from everyone on the forum-I just love it!


                    This is a timely topic for me for sure.
                    Last week I was in Denver and a tiny Co. town and there were middle of the night Fire Alarms at each!
                    Last Thanksgiving in Denver it happened twice in the same Hotel over the course of a week?

                    It turns out that if you need the practice,stay in a state that has recently legalized Pot!
                    According to the Managers of 2 of the 3 Hotels they have false alarms every day or 2 since the law was passed!

                    I guess it seems funny to see everyone else evacuate when you are baked?
                    Now I sniff the Hallways before taking the stairs down and having installed fire alarm systems since the 70's I look at the pull stations by the stairs too.

                    In South Florida where I work a lot there are frequent Hotel false alarms for some reason but last year someone did cause a fire by cooking and then falling asleep before turning the stove off.

                    Better safe than sorry for sure!

                    So I too always have my Synapse ready to go with anything I might need/want and the rest in my pants before going to sleep.

                    On a related note my Mother showed up in the Hall in Denver at the Turkey Day incident Barefoot and in her robe,she walked directly to the elevator and waited?
                    It was freezing outside and I had to get her into the car before telling the Firemen I had seen a pull station yanked on my stairwell before going down.

                    No one else knew how to reset the alarm system?

                    And guess who had the only keys on the premises to reset the pull station?
                    I ALWAYS carry too many keys! including Alarm System Master Keys!

                    It can come in handy for sure.

                    Last edited by AVService; 07-25-2014, 06:52 PM.


                      All this makes me think that it's always wise to carry my headlamp as well as my little handheld flashlight.
                      The stockpile keeps growing...I'm in serious trouble.


                        This is a very helpful thread. I haven't travelled much in the past few years, but my parents do and they tend to assume that staying in nice hotels = zero fire risk. Also, because there are no natural hazards in this part of the world, these things tend to be absent from our mental radars... even in places where it should matter. I'll be sure to nag them about this.

                        @atarango1-- Hope you don't mind my asking, but are you by any chance from Wellesley? The fire thing got me thinking. I'm a WC alumna too, but back then I never gave two hoots about the drills
                        Last edited by adalangdon; 07-26-2014, 01:06 AM.


                          Lol, yes, I went to Wellesley. There are a few of us here on the forum, I know of at least one other alum around here!


                            Originally posted by Trailhiker View Post
                            So tell me, with your record, do you avoid cruise ships?
                            No cruise ships yet... I prefer planes.

                            Maybe I should try once, and I'll pack all my stuff in a Q-kit

                            @atarango1: the hand towel is a great idea, I'll add one my list! thanks

                            Poker face
                            Big fan of Nordic dyneema (aeronaut, PCSB, PCBP, TT, LSB, SSB, SE, SCB, MCB, co-pilot, synapse 19). OK, so where am I going to put all that stuff...


                              Some great tips - I shall be doing some variation on them on future trips. I've been evacuated out of a hotel in the middle of the night once (false alarm) in October in England, and was very glad I'd worn pyjamas to bed and had slippers and a jacket close to hand! I now always wear pyjamas whatever the weather - lightweight cotton if it's summer - so I only need shoes and maybe a jacket if there's an evacuation.

                              Of course it helps if you don't sleep through the alarm, as I did on my recent trip to Minnesota - I remember waking up briefly, thinking blearily "what the heck's that racket?" and going back to sleep. Turns out that jetlag + busy days + under 6 hours' sleep a night turns even light sleepers like me into logs! Or maybe my subconscious was waiting for rescue by a hunky fireman
                              Work EDC: SE + S19
                              Leisure: SCBs, FJN, Swift, lots of YSSs
                              Travel: WF + Pilot or SA, with SE/SCB
                              General organisation: More pouches, stuff sacks and cubes than you can shake a keystrap at!
                              Favourite TB colours: aubergine, forest (sniff!), linen, wasabi, UV
                              Hoping for: A new dyneema colour for YSSs; a Linen Side Effect; the return of Portable Culture!