Fire and Water Safety

Fire Safety

When traveling abroad, it is recommended to become quickly acquainted with the fire safety measures in place in your accommodations. During the planning phase, it is best to request a room between the second to fifth floors if feasible; these floors are harder to break into but still accessible to firefighting equipment, if available. 

Once in your accommodations, inspect the room and determine if the windows are sealed or barred or if they can be opened from the inside and used as an emergency exit.  If a phone is available in your room, test to see if it works and know how to dial out in case of an emergency.  Also be familiar with the local equivalent for 911 – there may be a different number for each emergency service, so know what number you need to dial for fire emergencies. You can also dial the front desk staff in the event a language barrier may prevent you from communicating your emergency directly to emergency services.

Also familiarize yourself with the presence of any fire extinguishers or emergency exits. For planning your exit from the building, determine how many doors are there between you and the exit. In the event that smoke fills the room or hallways, you may have limited visibility. Stay low to the ground to avoid smoke inhalation, which can cause significant injury or even death. Having previously identified the closest route and counting the number of doors between you and the exit in advance will better enable you to escape the building. 

In a fire emergency, if a doorknob is hot to the touch, this is an indication that fire is present on the other side of the door. You may need to turn around and locate another exit, such as a window, or use the phone in your accommodation to notify emergency responders or the front desk of your situation and location. Should you find yourself stuck in your room during a fire emergency, fill a sink or bathtub with water and soak towels. Place them at the base of your door or other cracks to try to minimize smoke entering your room.  This can buy precious time for emergency responders to reach you.

For more information, please see the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) report on Fire Safety Abroad.

Water Safety

Drowning is one of the leading causes of deaths of U.S. citizens abroad per the U.S. Department of State. Travelers who will be engaging in any water activities, such as water sports or visiting beaches, rivers or creeks, should be aware of the dangers which water can present.

Stop and assess the situation prior to swimming. Particularly when entering unfamiliar bodies of water, individuals should be cognizant of their ability to swim as well as be able to recognize signs of rip currents.  What is the weather in the vicinity?  Do not swim during a storm. Check for posted cautionary signs and only swim at designated beaches with clear warning systems (e.g. flags) or lifeguards on duty, if possible. Do not consume alcohol prior to or while swimming and never swim alone.

If you find yourself caught in a rip current, do not try to fight the current. Instead, swim parallel or at a 45-degree angle to the shore. Many swimmers succumb by fighting against the current. For more information on rip currents, please see the United States Lifesaving Association.