Thursday, 14 January 2010

Death trap hotel - Toyoko Inn sucks

Last weekend I stayed at the Toyoko Inn in Okayama. I was there on business, and very tired after a tough journey & a busy schedule. I don't mind that the fire alarm went off at just after midnight; I'm glad that these things work (and that it was loud enough to wake me up!). I don't mind that it was a false alarm - better safe than sorry - but I am angry about people who smoke in bed.

I am extremely angry about the hotel's lack of fire safety & the potentially fatal circumstances. I, and all the guests, can count ourselves lucky to be alive.

  • All the fire escapes (except one on the 2nd floor) were locked
  • There were no fire extinguishers in sight - in rooms or corridors
  • There were no fire hoses in the corridors
  • Staff did not react at all - the two front desk girls stayed there, smiling nervously/bowing
  • The fire brigade never came to check the alarm
  • The police did not come to check either
I & other guests wasted the vital first minutes (the 'golden time' if you are actually in a fire) being polite, checking other exits & fruitlessly trying to open the fire escape by following the instructions. Mistake. We would all be dead from smoke inhalation or trapped by flames. Some people went back to bed, others appeared with bags packed and fully dressed.

Me? I grabbed the chair from my room and smashed the safety glass door (not easy!) & told everyone I could see on the 9th floor to go down the external stairs. Dangerous, because there was sharp glass still in the frame of the door, and broken glass on the concrete floor/stairs.

When I got to the next floor down, people were standing behind their glass door like we had been, fumbling to open it. I yelled at them to get a chair & smash it. They understood my Japanese? (Maybe context and gesture helped!) They tried with one chair - and broke the chair! The alarm was still ringing so I kicked it very hard. Smash - sharp glass everywhere again. One old man was more scared of me than the alarm and refused to leave the corridor. Reluctantly, I left him there. If there was a fire, emergency services would have to risk their lives to find this stupid old git.

No one on the 7th or 6th floors, but a mum & daughter were looking through their emergency exit on the 5th floor in panic. I realised my own wife & kids would have been in exactly the same situation. Kicking through that glass door cut my foot and ankle, which didn't bother me till later, but cold have been nasty. Other people on the 5th floor ran to escape as well.

When I got to the street, the alarm stopped & we were told it was a 'false alarm'. Someone smoking in bed on the 11th floor.

So nothing to panic about? Well, actually, yes. People could have died in a fire or from smoke inhalation; they could have been crushed to death against the locked emergency exits. Only I got cut by the safety glass, but it is very sharp (not designed to shatter). The glass is also very slippery, which made the staircases dangerous. Then there are the hotel staff who plainly did not know what to do, & no sign of emergency services to give the all clear.

My advice? Don't stay at Toyoko until they have changed their fire escapes & implemented new safety procedures.

Anybody else have a horror story like this?
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