Hotel : Second floor and fire exit locked. A cautionary tale.

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  ASK1945 5 Jan 2018
at 23:34

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  • capetonianm

    Whenever I get to a hotel, one of my first actions is to check the emergency exit plan and make sure that the marked exits are free of obstructions and not locked or otherwise unavailable.

    This is pretty much routine for me as I don’t like lifts so I tend to walk up and down the stairs anyway, unless it’s a very high building or I have heavy luggage.

    In all the years I’ve been travelling I have only twice encountered a problem, and I used to spend up to 50 nights a year in hotels all over the world.

    The first was at the Hotel Majestic in Barcelona, into which I’d been booked by the company organising a conference I attended. I followed the stairs down, which were marked as the fire exit, and ended up in a basement which was a dead-end, because the doors on the ground floor which would have formed an escape route into the street were locked. When I complained they were quite apologetic and unlocked the doors, saying it was a ‘mistake’, and I did check that they remained unlocked for the rest of my stay.

    On Thursday night we arrived at a small hotel in a village in Girona, where we had booked a two night stay, purely because it was convenient for where we were meeting friends the next day. The village is called Castello d’Empuries, and the rather good hotel (Canet) we’ve stayed in before was closed for renovations, so we booked one called Emporium. It didn’t look great from outside and was noisy. It’s not the sort of hotel any of us are ever likely to stay in on business but I think the following is worth relating. I’m quoting the report I put on Tripadvisor.

    Needless to say we left after an unpleasant scene, and a visit to the local police who were helpful in telling us how to formally complain, and we ended up in a far better hotel in nearby Empuriabrava, where the duty manager was shocked to hear why we’d ended up there so late at night.


    We had booked a single and double room for two nights and had phoned ahead and asked for quiet rooms.

    When we arrived my wife and I were allocated a room on the second floor facing the road, which was very noisy, not just with road noise but the paper thin walls allowed the sounds of the TV and the speech of the people in the adjacent room to be heard obtrusively. Noise is a subjective opinion and open to debate, but this pales into insignificance compared to what happened subsequently.

    I checked the fire exit on our floor to find that it was securely locked, and that there was no means of exit from that floor, other than the windows, or the lift (obviously not for use in case of fire) in the event of an emergency. I found a member of staff and asked her how one would leave the floor in case of emergency and she appeared completely incapable of understanding my concern over this matter, or simply indifferent.

    I went down to the reception where my request for information as to why the fire escape was locked was met with equal lack of concern and then I was told it was locked because there were renovations being carried out on another part of that floor. I told them that not only was our room unsatisfactory because of the noise, but more significantly because of the danger that having no means of exit would pose in the event of a fire. The rooms on that floor should obviously have been closed for sale.

    They neither apologised, nor offered an alternative room, upon which we said we would not be staying and they then became insulting and argumentative, pretending not to understand English or my (far from perfect) Spanish, including telling me that I should learn to speak the local language, Catalan. I told them that they were not fit to run a hotel, as they were putting people’s lives at risk, given that at least one other room on the floor was occupied. I called them imbeciles, which they found extremely insulting, and I defend my use of this word on the basis that anyone who runs a hotel and deliberately puts guests at risk, is at best irresponsible, and at worst, an imbecile.

    I have made an official complaint to the Generalitat de Catalunya, and have reported the matter to the local police, consumer organisation, and tourist authorities. I also intend to write to the local and national press and the various hotel booking websites which feature this hotel.

    I would strenuously suggest avoiding this establishment, at least until corrective action has been taken. The situation which gave rise to my complaint is appalling, and the manner in which the complaint was dealt with exacerbated the situation. I regularly stay in hotels in many countries, I spend roughly 50 nights a year in hotels, and have never encountered a situation such as this.

    As there is an associated Michelin starred restaurant on the same premises and under the same management, I have also written to Guide Michelin to raise this matter.

    Room Tip: Try to find one where they haven’t locked the fire escape.

    Locked fire door. No other means of escape from that floor



    Excellent advice, as someone who tends to use lifts all the time, something I for one have never checked.

    Tom Otley

    Whenever I check into a hotel room, after putting down my luggage, I check the escape route map on the back of the door, take the key card for the room, and walk the route to safety.

    Most times I get lost, but then work it out, walk back to me door, and then walk the route again.

    I was advised to do this by a pilot, and I trust pilots, for obvious reasons.

    I’ve never once had to use it in 20 years, though it has provided some kind of reassurance when I wake with jet lag in the night, and wonder where I am. After a few moments, I remember, and then trace that route in my mind.

    I’ve told this to other frequent travellers, and they seem suprised.

    But I will keep doing it.

    Have a great New Year.


    @capetonianm I’m pleased to see you also posted this on Google reviews. Here’s hoping TripAdvisor don’t ditch yours as they sometimes seem to have the habit of doing…


    That is appalling – you did absolutely the right thing, capetonianm.

    I’ve always checked out the escape routes in hotels because when I was a child, my family were caught up in a fire at a Liverpool hotel and it was terrifying not knowing the right way to go. I still remember the smell of the smoke and the push of people on the staircase. Also since watching a Horizon documentary on surviving disasters, I genuinely go for rooms on lower floors where possible because it gives you a better chance of getting out alive.

    Anyway. Cheery way to start 2018. Hope everyone here stays safe in their travels and has an excellent year.



    I always check the escape route for reasons given in the earlier posts. How often, if ever, when checking into to a hotel do they say a) please read the escape route map in the room and/or b) do you or anyone in your party require assistance in the case of an emergency. Think of someone who is deaf or very hard of hearing and would not hear the fire alarm were they not to mention it at check in. Ok the chances we know are slim but accidents do happen The Cameron House fire over Christmas believed to have been caused by the Xmas tree lights. The only hotel fire I have experienced was two fires in the same hotel 4 hours apart, The Post House in Manchester many moons ago. A housekeeper had left a cigarette in a linen cupboard and the smouldering towels were spotted and the second someone smoking in bed dropped a cigarette when sleeping and the smoke was seen coming out of an open window which some hotels still have. The first was about 9.00pm but the second at 2.00am. Treat the process like travel insurance i.e. just in case.


    That’s an excellent point. I don’t think I have ever, when checking into a hotel, had anything safety related drawn to my attention. There’s probably a happy medium between what the airlines do and what hotels (don’t) do!

    I tend to prefer high floors as they are often quieter and may have a better view but no doubt lower floors are safer.


    It was some years ago, on holiday in Majorca, and we took a trip on one of those large catamarans that have underwater viewing windows set into the hulls.

    And very good it was too, watching all the underwater life pass by. I did notice that there was precious little water between the bottom of the hull and the sea bed (or rocks) sometimes, and idly wondered what one would do if something pierced the hull, especially if you were some way from the entrance/exit. There was another exit at the other end of the hull, I noticed, and having worked my way down towards it, thought I’d use it. It refused to open.

    Intrigued now, I went back up on deck, and by triangulation, made my way to where the other exit ought to be, and sure enough, there it was. With two bench seats bolted down securely across it.


    During my 20-year period of staying around 120 nights a year in hotels in different countries, I experienced many fire alarms during the night – mostly false alarms, but sometimes real fires. I also had one experience of following fire exit signs showing me the proper exit route, which took me down to a basement – with the final exit door locked and chained. I was rescued by a fireman in breathing apparatus.

    Of course, I also now check fire exit routes immediately after getting to my room.

    What I did learn early on is to leave computer, phone, passport, (home) keys, any vital paperwork etc together near the room door, with my used day clothes and, most importantly shoes, all easily accessible. When the alarm goes off it is vital to get out quickly and you don’t want to be scrabbling around looking for things in the dark (the lights won’t work and the emergency light might not be sufficient). Of course the torch on your phone is a help these days.

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