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Fukuyama tragedy spurs fire safety hints for hot-sheet hotels

Fire at love hotel Prince
Fire at love hotel Prince
Last week, the love hotel Prince in Fukuyama City caught fire. Of 12 customers on the premises, seven died due to carbon monoxide inhalation.

The hotel, a combination of wood and steel-reinforced concrete, was constructed back in the 1960s. But Nikkan Gendai (May 16) warns readers that a similar fate might await anyone who frequents a love hotel that fails to meet basic safety standards.

The fire is believed to have started in the area of the hotel’s front desk and office, possibly due to a short circuit of the electrical devices in use. But the tabloid reveals that despite the standard practice that calls for twice-yearly inspections, Hotel Prince had last undergone an inspection by the local fire department in September 2003, i.e., nine years had gone by since its last safety check.

The negligence was attributed to the lack of officials available to perform safety checks.

Records of the previous check in 2003, moreover, showed that inspectors had pointed out to the hotel’s operator that the building did not comply with standards for fire safety equipment. Nor is there evidence that the operator made any improvements. In other words, the Prince was an accident waiting to happen.

“The first thing to look for is the safety of the fire escape stairway,” says Takamasa Wada, a fire rescue worker who provides advise regarding disaster risk management. “If objects are piled up on the stairway landings, people won’t be able to flee. That was the situation in that building in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho in 2001, when 44 customers died.”

Wada adds that it’s always safer when the fire escape is attached to the outside of the building. He also advises people who utilize such facilities take rooms on the 1st or 2nd floors.

“In a worst-case scenario, if you jump out the window there’s less chance of a major injury,” he says.

One factor compounding the Hotel Prince tragedy was the hotel’s location on a back street with few pedestrians. By the time a passing taxi spotted smoke and flames shooting from the building and called for assistance it was too late. So it’s also important to pick a love hotel that is not too isolated from the view of passers-by.

“Look for places with emergency ladders in the rooms, a map on the wall indicating what to do in the case of fire, and at least two emergency exits,” Wada also advises.

A final word: If you happen to be in one of these hotels when a fire breaks out, don’t count of help from a sprinkler system.

“In this country, there’s not one love hotel equipped with a sprinkler system,” asserts an unnamed source in the fire department. (K.S.)

Source: “Kekkan rabuhoteru no miwake-kata,” Nikkan Gendai (May 16, page 7)