Hotel Fire from Joe Dunn
Many people of my vintage will have read articles in the past about how to survive a hotel fire; however those of you who are a bit younger may not have seen these articles.
I was staying
at a hotel in downtown
The following is an extract of what I wrote at the time; but maybe it will serve as a reminder to those who take those tall buildings for granted.
The news from Bangkok on Sunday, 23rd February 1997 did not leave any one of us who remember it in any doubt whatsoever about the danger of a fire in a modern, multi-floor city-centre hotel; nor the need to consider its implications and mentally rehearse what such an occurrence could mean, were any one of us to be involved in this type incident, either when visiting on business or on holiday.
I was woken that morning to the clatter of helicopter
rotor blades from high in the sky above the city buildings, mixed with wailing fire
sirens from the busy streets far below. The panoramic view from my room on
the twenty-sixth floor of the Amari Watergate hotel in Phetchaburi Road was of an inferno of unimaginable
intensity in the
Within a period of only a few minutes, the fire
had spread from one small area on one floor of the ‘
It may seem to be a pretty tedious routine to check out the location of the fire fighting facilities and escape routes when checking into a hotel after a long flight; but when you watch a drama like this unfolding in front of you, it suddenly becomes very relevant and is certainly food for thought.
I reflected as I watched the fire develop and the stranded people in their helplessness. Should they jump ? Some did; and died. Should they chance the use of a high speed lift before electrical power failed ? Absolutely NOT. Other questions are less easy to answer and there is no correct solution. Should they have run down or walked up the emergency stairs, assuming that they could find the stairs in the dense smoke ? Should they have stayed put in their rooms in the hope of a later rescue ? Should they break their window glass to get more ventilation and risk showering those below who were trying to fight the fire with shards of deadly glass ? I don’t think so. Every window which happened to be open in the multi-story building was ‘drawing’ copious amounts of thick black smoke from the guts of the dying building and exhausting it through the open windows to the atmosphere. Should they have sealed their rooms with wet towels or blankets around the door and filled up the bath with water to cool down later when the heat became intolerable ? Should they somehow block up their personal air-conditioning grilles to prevent choking to death ? Not much of an option, but possibly the best one because there are no guarantees of a rescue before the fire comes up to meet you !
The air conditioning system ducting was, I believe, filled with smoke at all levels. The main fans would have failed long before as they shorted out with the fire or water from the automatic sprinkler system. If the sprinkler system was operative within the tower, it may have eventually put out the fire, but it could never have stopped the smoke quickly enough to save life. It was a stroke of luck that the fire brigade could just reach the burning levels with their hoses on high-lift cranes brought to the street below. Had the blaze been at a higher level who knows what would have happened. You cannot extinguish a furnace with a watering can !
Only a few elements are very certain about this particular type of tragedy. You are almost totally on your own in the scenario; to make your own judgments using your wits and your own reactions. You have no time to waste if you are going to get yourself out and alert your colleagues; before that option is quickly lost.
Following extensive repairs, the hotel tower complex was re-opened under a different name nearly three years later. That hotel building is now called The Bangkok Intercontinental.