Hotel guests forced to evacuate wearing bath towels when faulty vacuum cleaner sets off fire alarm

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

I spent two years working as a hotel housekeeper. It was a disgusting, grueling, fascinating job. There was always something happening, like the time the maintenance staff set off the fire alarm with the dust that escaped from his vacuum cleaner while he was cleaning the hallway closet on the top floor.

The vacuum cleaner somehow belched out a cloud of dust that promptly made its way to the smoke detector and bam... flashing lights and blaring klaxons in every room.

Those of us working on the lower floors didn't know what had caused the alarms to sound. We just knew the alarms were sounding.

My coworkers and I pounded on every door, commanding the hotel guests to drop everything and evacuate immediately.

I turned to my coworker. "Grab your purse and your car keys on the way out," I instructed. "If we can't get back in the building, you want to be able to drive yourself home."

After alerting every hotel guest from the third floor down to leave the building, we ran outside and stood in the far corner of the parking lot to watch the fire engines arrive. Arrive they did. The parking lot was filled with fire engines, police cars, and even an ambulance or two.

From the safety of our vantage point, we saw the guests streaming into the parking lot from the front door of the hotel. The last to exit were the ones who'd apparently been forced to exit mid-shower. After ignoring me and my coworkers, they'd decided to listen to the firefighters.

I get it. My voice and demeanor aren't nearly as assertive and authoritative as a firefighter's when commanding people to leave a building. Maybe they couldn't even hear my voice over the klaxons.

By the time we learned it was a false alarm, we had a handful of guests swathed only in bath towels trying to shrink into the hedges surrounding the hotel. I felt quite sorry for them.

One woman asked a firefighter if she could return to her room yet and was told she'd have to wait for the official all-clear. Rules are rules.

Finally, the firefighters gave the hotel manager the go-ahead to let the guests and staff back into the building. Everyone was relieved that we were never in any danger, but I was disappointed that i didn't get to leave work early.

The bath towel guests slunk back to their rooms. At least one of them still had shampoo in her hair. She was a good sport.

If I learned one thing from the situation, it's this: Always be prepared to evacuate your hotel room at a moment's notice, and don't wait until the last minute to leave once the klaxons start. And for Pete's sake, don't get into the shower after someone tells you to exit the building. Okay. That's three things.

Have you ever had to evacuate your hotel room in a hurry? Comments are welcome.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

Massachusetts State

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