After publishing our post on hotel fire safety tips we received a firsthand, personal account about a hotel fire in Greece in 1989, and we thought it was definitely worth sharing.
We want to once again remind you how important it is to make sure your hotel is fire safe and up to code, and this story proves just that. In a fire or other emergency, you definitely want to have a safe and quick way out.
Special thanks to Zoulla who sent us the story.
Zoulla went on vacation to Greece in 1989, when she was 19 and took along a colleague from work who was 17 at the time.They had gone to stay at the Hotel Belvedere in Crete, a hotel with over 1000 guests. On arrival, they were shown around the hotel, the pool, and other amenities, but were not given any safety or evacuation information. All they were told was that there was an elevator to each floor, a staircase on either end of each floor, and an additional spiral stair case in the middle of the building, all leading to the ground floor. Their room was on the 4th floor.
They went out for the evening and returned late, but Zoulla woke up early in the morning realizing that both her and her friend were coughing. She quickly noticed that the room was dark not because it was nighttime, but because it was filling with thick black smoke, which was slowly crawling up the walls.
Zoulla immediately jumped up, shook her friend, pushed her into the bathroom, and told her to fill the bath with water and soak towels to cover their mouths, in preparation for evacuation. She told us that:
“Somewhere in the back of my mind, fire safety information came into action without me thinking about it.”
Once Zoulla was sure that there was no heat behind the door she covered herself with a wet towel and opened the door while jumping into the bathroom, just in case flames were outside. In her fast-thinking state, Zoulla quickly noticed that nobody else was in the hallway, so she proceeded to bang on every door to alert the occupants that there was a fire, all while ensuring both her and her friend’s mouths were covered to prevent smoke inhalation. Zoulla managed to lead people to the spiral staircase in the center of the building, as the other stairs were on fire. They soon arrived at a glass door, so Zoulla and another man broke the glass to allow everyone to escape. Meanwhile, on upper floors, people were throwing mattresses out the their windows so that they could jump onto them to escape.
After a while, the US Air Force arrived on the scene, coming from their base in Gouves. They brought ladders and equipment and went into action to deal with the fire and rescue. Eventually they had everything under control and took some of the tourists back to their base as the hotel was unable to find emergency accommodation for everyone.
Zoulla summarized the ordeal and told us:
“At no point did a smoke alarm sound or anyone make us aware there was a fire. There were no sprinklers, no emergency lighting, no staff members telling us what to do and no local fire fighters. We were all alone until the US Air force came.”
Unbeknownst to Zoulla, on her return to England, some of the other hotel guests had called national newspapers and told them that she was responsible for their rescue. We definitely agree, Zoulla’s action and quick thinking are exemplary and prove just how important it is to have proper fire safety training. As for the hotel, we can only hope they’ve improved their safety standards since then.
Do you have a story about a fire, in a hotel or other building? Let us know, we’d love to share it. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org