Appropriate Compensation For A False Hotel Fire Alarm?

Reader steven k asked the following question in the Ask Lucky forum:

i was staying at a sheraton. at around 11:45 pm, i was awoken by fire alarm. all the guests had to evacuate from the hotel. we had to spend next 30 minutes outside until the fire department reset the false alarm.
i tried going back to sleep but was unable.
the hotel gave me 1000 star points for compensation but i thought this was inadequate. should i call up the spg customer service to get more compensation? do i have legitimate case?

I’m passing this question on here because I’m curious how others have dealt with similar situations. I’ve frequently seen people post about hotel fire alarms going off, though it’s not something I’ve ever faced. Or at least I don’t remember ever dealing with a hotel fire alarm, which is sort of surprising.

Sheraton-Frankfurt-Airport-Suite - 9

Steven indicates that it was a “false alarm.” I’m not sure if that means it was a system error, if a guest pulled it accidentally, or what. Honestly I doubt a guest will necessarily find out the real reason either.

My initial reaction was that I wouldn’t request anything, since I’d assume it’s outside the hotel’s control, and safety always comes first. Then again, I think it’s actually quite reasonable to ask for compensation in the event of a mechanical flight delay which causes you to arrive at your destination significantly later.

Etihad-Flight-Delay

After thinking about that, I considered if the better example of a hotel fire alarm accidentally going off is a situation where a flight has to divert due to a medical emergency with a passenger, a situation in which I don’t think the airline owes passengers anything.

I really don’t know what to say here, and I’m curious what you guys think. On one hand the most basic thing a hotel can provide is a good night of sleep, and being woken up in the middle of the night prevents that. Then again, what if it’s not the hotel’s fault (or at least partly not the the hotel’s fault), and the hotel is just practicing “safety first,” as they must?

Is it appropriate for a guest to request compensation in the case of a fire alarm going off, and if so, what is reasonable?

Comments

  1. I think its unfair to ask for a compensation as I don’t see what the Hotel’s options were in the give situation. In your example, an airline CAN arrange an alternate aircraft to make sure passenger reaches on time and thus, it may be fair to be expected to be compensated if they don’t arrange one. But in the hotel fire case, should the hotel have waited to verify the authenticity of the alarm before evacuating? That could be immensely dangerous. From the user query posted, it seems like the hotel followed standard safety protocol and honestly, I feel even the points they gave for free were not needed. I for once would be thankful to the hotel for having systems in place for my safety.

  2. I was on a project where the hotel would have a fire alarm at least 2x a month. I was told it was because they used optical smoke sensors that were triggered by shower steam. The solution was to move to alarms triggered by heat.

    If the hotel was dragging its feet on upgrading the sensors then compensation is in order. If it was someone getting baked in their room, I don’t think any comp is in order. But, how would one know?

  3. This is a joke, right? I think they owe you nothing. I’d ask for a round of drinks or breakfast or something for goodwill.

  4. After seeing the recent Hotel fires in the Middle East, I’d think an interrupted nights sleep and 1,000 pts is more than adequate as a comp. I agree with @ Brian …Harden the you know what up princess … Welcolme to the age of self-entitlement … ** sigh **

  5. Don’t think you can ask for much for a single isolated event – 1,000 points is a great outcome. That said, I used to live above a Ruth’s Chris steakhouse and they triggered the building fire alarm 3 times in a week (forcing evacuation of the entire building once at around 9pm, once at midnight and once at 3am) after the third alarm, I went to talk to the manager who gave me a $400 gift card – thought that was pretty generous!

  6. Would you seek compensation if a fire alarm saved your life? This seems petty and a bit greedy. In the grand scheme, 1000 points is more than sufficient for a minor inconvenience. You weren’t moved to another hotel or anything drastic.

  7. At least your reader’s hotel acknowledged that the alarm had gone off. This happened to me a few years ago, and it bothered me that when I checked out a few hours later, no one at the front desk said anything about it. Obviously the alarm (at about 5 a.m.) had affected everyone in the hotel, but not a word was said. I did think that was bad form, and I won’t return to that hotel.

  8. Jesus Tapdancing Christ … compensation for a fire alarm? The entitlement behind that line of thinking is extraordinary…

  9. Speaking from the hotel side (with over 30 years in cities like Manila, San Francisco, Auckland, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kota Kinabalu, Las Vegas and more), the bottom line is safety, safety, safety… Hotels do not intentionally cause alarms and wish to evacuate all guests for no reason but alarms are alarms for whatever the cause (whether it be from other guests, overly sensitive sensors, tenants or depending on the class/level of the establishment – needed maintenance)

    So, prudence and common sense for your own personal safety (and, others) are paramount.

  10. I don’t know. I get the feeling now we are trying to find compensation for every single little mistake. This game wasn’t meant to abuse the hotel or airline.
    Sure, if the service was shoddy AND they showed unapologetic vibe when such incident happened, you could claim it. But there was a mistake that was out of their control probably, and if they were being apologetic, move on.
    Think of it the other way. Let’s see if you make a mistake, and everyone who’s affected wants you to compensate for it. Is that the kind of society you want to live in? I’d rather live in a society where people are gracious enough to be forgiving when little mistakes happen.

  11. I don’t believe safety equipment malfunction or false alarm warrants any compensation, an apology at the checkout should do. What I wanted to ask about is power outage. How have guest handled power outage at night. I had a stay at Hilton garden Inn where there was power outage from around 11pm to sometime around 3am. I was not feeling well so took some Advil and slept till power coming back turned on lights and TV and woke me up. I was not looking to get compensated and thought I would get atleast an apology at checkout but no mention of it. How have others handled power or water outage situations with hotel. I understand most of the time it is out of their control.

  12. Wait – you’re not supposed to get a random fire alarms at 3am? Seems I thought that was the reason my Courtyard stays were always in the $60 range… 😉

  13. 1000 points seems adequate, IMHO. A long time ago, a fire alarm put everyone out at a Sheraton/Westin/Marriott/Hilton (can’t remember which :-P) at 02:00 for an hour and a half, and it was SNOWING outside. While the fire department cleared the building, hotel employees kept us updated every 10 minutes or so, and they distributed blankets during the wait. Of course, the hotel apologized with a letter in the morning and gave everyone some kind of compensation offer. Talking to people at breakfast, all the guests were annoyed (naturally), but most seemed pleased with how the hotel dealt with the situation. It was a smaller (~150-200 room) suburban property, so perhaps that made a difference. I’d imagine it would’ve been more chaotic at say, an airport, convention, or city hotel.

    Personally, we got a good deal – breakfast for 3 adults was comped for our 3 night stay. We had daily breakfast even though our rate didn’t include it, so it saved us a bunch of money. 🙂

  14. I’ve never actually been evacuated because of a fire alarm at a hotel, but I remember being woken up once by a fire alarm, and there was a blazing fire in the hotel property right next door to ours in Hawaii. The room on fire appeared to be right outside our window.

    I wouldn’t expect compensation – sh*t happens.

  15. In all my 1000+ nights stay at hotels only once have a false alarm happen and it was way back when the Lexor hotel opened in Vegas, it happened twice back to back nights, the hotel gave us 4 comp nights on our next stay and refunded us for the current stay, we didn’t have to ask for anything they pro-activity did it.

  16. Airlines do owe compensation for medical emergencies and related delays if they did accepted the passenger. It’s up to to the airline to screen out passengers to sick to make the journey.

  17. I was at the Courtyard in Honolulu a few years back and the fire alarm went off one night at around midnight. Then the next day went off at around 1am, and again at 7am. I complained to the manager on duty when checking out, but didn’t ask for compensation. She voluntarily comped one night out of the two we spent there. Considering it went off 3 times, all around sleeping time (and who knows how many other times when we were outside) I thought a free night was appropriate. I felt this case was different because after a few times not only does it get disruptive and annoying but also you start ignoring a possible real emergency. It depends on the situation.

  18. The only time I asked for anything was when the hotel fire alarm tripped after midnight then again an hour later and again a half hour after that. It was annoying to have to get up the first time but then for it to continue again and again after falling back asleep twice. By the third time I asked to be swapped to another property (W Leicster Square to the LM Picadilly) since I wanted a good nights rest and obviously wasn’t getting it at the W.

  19. I’ve had my fair share of fire alarms. In my opinion compensation depends on the situation. If it’s a daytime incident that’s no big deal. However if you are woken in the middle of the night there should be some offer of compensation to the guests. You paid for a good night’s sleep right? Also how the hotel staff handled the situation is another factor. Did the hotel staff abandon the guests and never provide information? That is negligence on the side of the hotel staff (poor training) and there is no excuse.

  20. @baltia

    Yawn…

    You’re really bad at trolling, might I suggest you take up fantasy role playing such as Dungeons and Dragons or World of War Craft?

  21. I think considering they were Stat points. 1000 is more than enough ( 1000 Hyatt points would be fine too)

    Now if they were Hilton., IHG or Marriott point which are so highly inflated where u need like 50,000 points for a free night. Then it would not be enough

    But for star points it’s just fine

  22. Your kidding right? Seriously you think you should get something?
    How about a think you to the hotel that they did their job and evacuated the building until fire arrived andit was just a false alarm.

  23. Sorry, but if this was a one-off deal, suck it up and deal with it. Poop happens. Though I do sympathize with the OP; the sound made by fire alarms scares the bejezus out of me, and I can’t fall back asleep for several hours after being awakened by one (assuming I don’t sleep right through it in the first place).

    The only time I would expect compensation is if false alarms were a repeated, recurring issue due to a technical problem. We once stayed in a hotel in Vancouver where the alarms went off two nights in a row around 3 A.M., and then again around 10 A.M. the third morning because of a broken senor on one floor. The hotel distributed a letter apologizing and voluntarily comped us 50% of the room rate for the two disrupted nights.

  24. Hmm… I once was at a Sheraton and literally had to carry a 3yo and 1yo down 19 flights of stairs at midnight. Again, for an ‘avoidable’ fire alarm (construction). You bet your ass I was comped half my stay.

  25. Our fire alarm goes off in my apartment building and Ive never asked for a discount on Rent. The fact you got 1000 Starpoints ( I guess you value that at $22) is pretty amazing. Very nice of the hotel to give you anything. they didn’t want the alarm to go off anymore than you did. Super sense of entitlement.

  26. I’ve claimed damages from a hotel before when a false fire alarm resulted in interrupted crew rest and consequently a delayed flight and associated costs related to passenger welfare. The hotel settled with us for a credit note – it was an excellent chain property which got around $2m/year in business from our airline so they had incentive to keep us happy.

  27. Seriously you entitled rewards members make me sick. You use your COMPANIES MONEY, for all your stays and yet you still act like butt holes.

  28. I agree to most opinions over here. Just lol at the self entitlement, it’s a bit too much. lucky to get 1000 starpoints for the inconvenience than go through the horrible experience of the real thing

  29. thanks for all the feedback except for the idiotic remark from that antisemitic troll.

    one of the firemen said system error caused the false alarm. so, i am guessing it was a technical issue, not a prank pull. also, at the time of the check out, desk clerk told me this sort of thing happens time to time.

    here is my 2 cents. i am ENTITLED to a quiet night of uninterrupted sleep at hotel especially when i paid the full price. the alarm system was managed and under the control of the hotel and it should bare responsibility for faulty alarm system.

  30. 1000 points is *TOO MUCH*. Unless it’s a chronic, known problem at the hotel, I don’t see how the hotel is responsible for it. If anything, I have a lot of sympathy for the hotels in regards to this. Fire inspectors are requiring more and more sensors, newer technologies, all of which is far more false-alarm prone. The hotels are stuck with whatever the fat-ass fire inspector wants, not necessarily what’s best for their property. This includes safety — I’ve been instructed by fire inspectors to do things which make occupants LESS safe. BUT it was either we comply or he failed the building.

    At the same time, I did have an unpleasant experience at the Swallow hotel in London on Cromwell, wherein the fire alarm went off multiple times on multiple nights. Management wasn’t great about it but by the time we checked out they’d written off about 50% of our bill without us needing to request it. The hotel is now the Marriott Kensington and has been completely gutted/rebuilt, although there are mentions in TripAdvisor of fire alarms going off at night.

  31. Asking compensation for a false fire alarm is ridiculous. When you check in to a hotel, you are implicitly entrusting the hotel with your welfare. There was a fire alarm, and your beauty sleep got disturbed. Agreed. No one likes that.
    On the other hand, say there was a fire alarm, and the hotel let you go through your beauty sleep while they checked the severity of the fire, and while they were doing that you got barbecued. Would you be willing to indemnify the hotel from the lawsuits your family would bring against them?

  32. (Sorry to post twice, but the appropriate entry on which to book this is two months old, unlikely to be seen or replied to)…
    seems like Amextravel.com for both the fine hotels and other properties has resorted to using Orbitz.com for bookings. The rep I spoke to (ymmv) told me they have a disclaimer on the website saying as much (good luck finding it) and that this has been the case for as long as she has worked for amextravel.com. She’s also said that is it true of both Fine Hotel bookings and normal bookings.

    Bamboozled into booking four nights at the Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit to access an AMEX 10,000 point bonus for a $500 booking through Amextravel.com (which I’ll admittedly receive), the SPG Triple Bonus for stays at Sheraton (which I won’t) and my platinum status with SPG and likely upgrades, breakfasts and the like (and not to mention, disappointingly aided by bloggers who fail to mention the limitations of the program, possibly, unless I am missing something). I am trying to reverse the non-refundable booking now as I am staying a bit away from where I’d otherwise like to base, for the now-unavailable benefits of staying at a hotel for which I would purportedly received platinum status benefits.

    What do you know about it? I can’t find any mention of it here.

  33. The amount of greed that people are willing to display is astonishing to me. False fire alarm = Tough luck.
    Nothing more to say.

  34. As a Hotel Manager, this just infuriates me. You check into our hotel, therefore we have a duty of care. If something happens, it’s on us. Asking for compensation as a result of a fire alarm is absurd. Yes, you have a right to a good nights sleep, but you also have a right to feel safe and secure. Could you imagine what we’d have to deal with if we didn’t get you out in time..?

  35. steven k should consider himself lucky (no pun intended) he scammed…er, squeezed 1,000 compensation points as it is. Now he wants more? Oy oy.

  36. Its a fire alarm that could save your life. Period. Yes, false alarms, for whatever reason, do happen. Yes, its a pain in the backside when they do. Yes, getting up in the middle of the night to evacuate a hotel and then on return not being able to get back to sleep properly makes most of us cranky, irritable, and uncomfortable. Doesnt change the fact that the alarm is there for your protection. To me, in the case as described, there is no reason whatsoever to seek compensation. It happened, as things in life do.

  37. Send this to loyalty lobby. the two losers over there will probably tell you you’re entitled to 3 free nights or something. You’ll get more compassion over there.

  38. Regarding the analogy of an aircraft mechanical failure, that is mostly in the airline’s control (as they are responsible for maintenance). Almost always mechanical failure is a result of less than optimal inspection & servicing, to reduce costs.

    A false fire alarm is different from that – usually they are the result of guests doing things they shouldn’t in their rooms (which is outside the hotel’s control). Unless the false fire alarm is down to a failure of the hotel to either select the right fire alarms or to maintain their fire alarm systems properly, I do not believe they can be held responsible.

    The interruption to the guest was only 30 minutes, pretty quick for a fire alarm, even though it happened at an inconvenient hour. Small beer in the scheme of things.

  39. I was at the Element Hotel near DFW on the top floor on January 1st, 2014. I was not able to make a phone call since the phone was broken. I asked the desk clerk to send up someone to fix the phone, so someone came and took the phone. I waited and even went downstairs twice to ask for a new phone. I gave up and went to bed. A fire alarm went off and I got up, got dressed fast, and went to the hallway to look around. No one around. Imagine my panic! I ran down the stairs to find business as usual at the front desk. The clerk looked surprised that I had brought my suitcase and inquiring where we should evacuate to. The clerk responded that this happened quite frequently when people smoked outside setting the alarm off! Like really? I was so upset at that and calmly asked for my phone. I could have called to check if there had been a fire. The clerk got his manager and the manager wrote on a sheet of stationary that he would compensate me 4000 star points. When the points did not show up for a month, I sent the letter to Starwood. I received the points soon after. I do not feel entitled to complain. I think I did the right thing.

  40. I have an idea, next time your in a hotel and its burning down lucky we’ll make sure the fire alarms on your floor are turned off.
    How low can you go.

  41. It happened to me in independent hotel property at 2am. I did not ask for anything.
    A non-chain hotel can not offer points etc. anyway.
    In this case, 1 000 points is fair.

  42. This is points obsession run amok! I stayed ay a Hyatt about 8 years ago and the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night. I stepped out into the hall (it was one of those Hyatt’s with the full height indoor atrium) and I saw lots of people gathering in the lobby as instructed. There didn’t appear to be a fire so I just went back to sleep. I never even thought of asking for points until I read this post. I had bigger fish to fry, like a 9AM meeting that I needed sleep for.

  43. Had one stayed at a Hampton Inn with their 100% satisfaction guarantee, this would not be an issue for those who feel that compensation is warranted. I think their policy is wonderful. Sure, there is potential for abuse, but …

    For the sh@t happens crowd, they would not need to seek compensation. For those who feel that compensation was in order for a problematic stay, an easy resolution.

  44. I had an employee that had to suffer through a glitch that caused four fire alarms in one night at the hotel he was staying at. He didn’t get very much sleep, obviously. I reached out to the hotel on his behalf and got the night comped.

    I think one alarm isn’t worth anything, but a malfunction that causes four really defeats the purpose of paying for a night of lodging!

  45. I will happily start pulling alarms right before bedtime for 1,000 starpoints a pop! I mean, why not?!

  46. Was at Maui Andaz a few months back and alarm went off 2x’s in an hour at 3:30am. Next morning there was a letter from mgr apologizing and saying there would be a $50 credit applied to our account.Seemed acceptable.

  47. If everybody asked for compensation everytime the fire alarm went off, the hotel would be out of business!

  48. How do you know it was a false alarm? And how would you define false alarm? Some would consider a guest burning popcorn in the microwave or smoking in the room a false alarm b/c there is no actual fire event. In these cases, you can actually go back into the hotel. In the case of an actual fire, no matter how small, you’ll be stuck outside until the fire department clears the building, which could take hours. You ended up with the much better outcome.

  49. wow – your reader confused you for the elliott blog where he assumes all companies are wrong and the customer is always right. He’s right the compensation wasn’t adequate; it was more than adequate as nothing was really due to him in the first place.

  50. I too was awarded 1,000 starwood points for a false alarm but I do feel like it should have been more for the following reason. It was a new hotel (a few weeks old) and they were having issues with the fire alarm being too sensitive (the hotel explained that even steam from the showers were setting it off). We were awaken 3 times during our 3 night stay at the hotel. It was ridiculous.

  51. I think free room service breakfast in the morning would have been appropriate compensation.

  52. Lol. Free room service breakfast in the morning? If I’m woken up by a fire alarm anytime between 1-5am I’d be looking for a later checkout and to sleep through breakfast.

    Compensation? Depends on how much I’d paid to stay at the hotel, what guarantees they provided, etc..

    Of course the hotel needs to evacuate based on its incident management plan, but that shouldn’t, in itself, negate any potential for compensation.

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