Alabama Hotel Where 4 Died Lacked Fire Alarm, Legally

June 8, 2010

A fire that killed four college students in a suburban Birmingham, Alabama motel illustrates a deadly but little-noticed problem for travelers. Many older hotels and motels can legally avoid installing sprinklers, which surveys show are invaluable in saving lives of guests.

Despite a push for sprinklers in recent decades, federal officials say an estimated 3,900 hotel and motel fires are reported each year, causing on average 15 deaths, 150 injuries and $76 million in property loss.

The National Fire Protection Association says it’s rare for a guest to die when a fire breaks out in a room with sprinklers. The Days Inn fire that killed the students from Mississippi in January was at an older motel that wasn’t required to have the sprinklers.

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