What, if anything, do hotels owe you when “fake” fire alarms go off? What about points vs. cash stays?

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I bet this has happened to just about everyone who reads this post today – that is, you have been at a hotel somewhere in the world and in the middle of the night the fire alarms go off. Now the number of times it was a real emergency I bet is almost zero, but if you have a harrowing tale to tell be sure to comment below.

It seems like it happens to me more than the norm, but maybe it is just because of how many nights I stay at hotels each year. Depending on what info you are given (or not given) getting up and putting on outside clothes and coats and whatever and depending on the hotel walking down a great many stairs is never fun but the alternative, if the fire is real, clearly is not good so you go…

But since a bulk of the time the alarms are fake do hotels owe you anything for when these things happen? Does it make any difference if it was a points stay or a paid visit? What about the circumstances that triggered the alarm?

Take my most recent adventure last week when I landed in Grand Rapids. My wife and I were returning from a weekend getaway and landed almost at midnight. It is about a 2 hour drive home so rather than doing that we decided to stay at a Club Carlson property very near the airport on points. It had a free shuttle that only ran till 11PM, but I was told I could take a taxi and they would pay us back (I had UBER credits so just did that).

Literally the moment we walked in the door to the hotel the fire alarms went off i.e. at about midnight. Ugg…

We went back outside and watched guests stream out over the next half an hour as well as the local fire department showing up and more. The employee who was working the night shift on the weekend was beyond frustrated. He said:

  • This was an ongoing issue for the hotel
  • He could not get the alarms shut off
  • Managers would not answer their phones
  • He could not contact the property owners

He was clearly not getting paid enough to deal with this but by 2AM all was quiet again (alarms were disabled I was told and would not be going off again) and the firemen departed and he could check us in but not to the room we were to stay in because there was water flooding rooms on the 3rd floor running all the way down to the 1st floor and apparently this was the trigger for the alarms.

Considering I could have been home by now if I had just got in my car at the airport this good nights rest was becoming a bit of a joke. Plus, it was a bit disconcerting that the fire alarms were now disabled for the property. I also suggested to the employee maybe they should extend the breakfast time the next day as some may want to sleep in after the midnight adventures (that did not happen).

Club Carlson did reach out to me about this after my tweets to them but nothing happened beyond a DM that said they were sorry. Personally, considering the hotel has had an ongoing issue with their alarms, I think points back for the stay would have been nice. That has not happened nor do I expect anything will.

So what do you think? Are there ever times hotels owe you a refund for “fake” fire alarms destroying your nights rest? Does it matter how they are triggered or by whom? Does it matter if it was a points stay vs. a paid stay regarding compensation? Or is this just part of hotel life and we just have to expect this can happen and put up with it when it happens no matter what? Let me know in the comments below. – René



  1. I’ve found that the hotel generally doesn’t acknowledge it or apologize when these false alarms happen. I normally just chock it up and not worry about it because it is good the hotel system works in case there was a real emergency.

  2. Unless this is a reoccurring issue with a defective system they owe us nothing. I can’t even imagine asking for anything unless they have a systems issue.

  3. The most I have ever received was a few drink or app vouchers. I’m ok with it though and will always go. As you said, the risk is not so good.

  4. Several years back at the Hilton Garden at DTW the place was packed as in no vacancy or at the Hampton next door and Embassy Suites down the road (same owners) Anyways the fire alarm goes off around 2 am and the fire dept. shows up and we notice water running down from a window 1 floor from the top. Somebody hung his laundry on the sprinkler next to the sign that says DO NOT HANG. It was February and snowing and my daughter had a 8am hockey game the next morning all the way across town. When we woke our room was wet and I mean soaked as we were 2 floors below the offender. We requested to move and took our stuff and went to the game. Returned at noon and told no rooms so we waited the day in the lobby. Had another game and when we returned they had a room (8pm) I went off and was given half off for the 3 day stay. Others in our group complained about the alarm and were given half off the one day (until the credit card statements arrived and were all charged the full amount). While we had zero water damage they did honor the reduction on mine. I stayed in that hotel at least 30 nights over a 7 year period both before and after that incident. Great viewing when the heavy’s come in right at the hotel.

  5. One of the great benefits of Hilton properties such as Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn is their guarantee that if they can’t fix it, you don’t pay. Over the years I have been comped points, had nightly fees removed, and my favorite – Hampton Inn coupons good for free nights at any HI in the world. In case the manager balks, notice the 12″ medallion embedded into the front desk! And yes, I was once even compensated for a false fire alarm (some [idiot] took a smoke in the stairwell at a Hampton in Vermont), and the hotel stood by its promise. Of course, having Hilton Honors Diamond status helps.

  6. I think you should certainly at minimum get your points back. You were asked to say in a hotel without an active fire alarm which I imagine is probably illegal, as it seems it was deliberately switched off. Don’t let Carlson get away with this. Please update the blog with what happens here.

  7. @DaninMCI – I would agree but how can one find out if it was say some guest who caused it or if it was a hotel issue? I doubt most would be as upfront as this hotel employee was with me (he was really frustrated by it all as well as the lack of ability to talk to management / owners)!

  8. What if the false alarms are caused by smokers smoking in the non-smoking rooms? We’ll probably never know what caused the alarms but I doubt they will provide any compensation for a false alarm of what is a safety device. An alarm not going off when needed would be another matter.

  9. Years back, my family and I stayed once at a Sheraton in downtown Philadelphia the night before the Army/Navy football game. Unbeknownst to us, the Navy football team was staying there as well. The fire alarms went off twice during the middle of the night. They never told us why, but maybe it was some sort of covert mission from the Army team to gain an advantage by depriving the Navy team of sleep.

    The next morning I inquired about it at the front desk. They offered to give us free breakfast, but since I was an SPG Platinum I already received that. Instead, they have me the “local amenity” which was a diecast replica of the Liberty Bell.

  10. I’ll never complain about a false fire alarm. I don’t want to discourage it, because if a “real” alarm happens, I want as much notice as possible. Unless it happens every night … no.

    I’ve only had maybe 5 of these in 10 years. Not a big deal. We don’t always need to get free stuff.

  11. How in the world was that hotel allowed to continue serving guests that night with a deactivated fire system? Should be a mega code violation there.

  12. recently in Londonhouse chicago the alarm in our room kept going off all nite every 20 minutes,,Ofcourse all other rooms all booked for our stay everyday they changed the batteries and every nite they went off… The would not offer anything but some breakfast coupons,very disappointing

  13. @TJK from DTW- Very much so!

    Back in my college days, I worked at a hotel that had a faulty alarm: a heat sensor got damaged while staff was moving equipment between conference rooms. It later ‘detected’ at 0-dark-30, FD arrived and determined no fire but unable to fully reset due to that broken sensor. GM wanted to avoid emergency call-out fee from alarm company, opting instead set alarm into disabled/repair mode for the night. Long story short, fire chief declared the hotel unsafe for occupancy and ordered evacuation of all 500 rooms…alarm company tech had the sensor swapped out and everything back online half an hour later 🙂

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