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Fire Safety in Albergues

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
And the sign on the door saying that you need to push with both hands to open it?
Although I am not certain what the function of this door in the photo of the Burgos albergue Casa del Cubo is and going only by what I think I see in the photo, I thought I’d share this newly acquired bit of info as it might be useful to know in general:

How does a panic bar door work?
Panic bars consist of a flat, horizontal bar attached to the inside of an outward-opening door. This flat bar retracts a latch mechanism when pushed, unlocking the door for fast exit. Doors using a classic crash bar require no knowledge or keys to operate.

64E0E768-551C-4C3D-9C4D-0B5F2BC04191.jpeg
 
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Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Past OR future Camino
2019
Just to be clear, it’s not only albergues or Spanish lodging with issues. We stayed at small hotels in both Barcelona and Paris where the proprietor fully locked the front door (the ONLY door!) when they had to leave the front desk. While it’s not overnight, it definitely could be up to 30 minutes if they are preparing breakfast or assisting other guests elsewhere. Rules are only good if there is an enforcement arm.

And don’t get me started on the number of fire alarm systems I have seen in hotels, retail, and restaurants in EVERY country that have been disabled or “silenced”. These are exceptionally dangerous because you think you are being protected, but are not.
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
Just ask: Donde esta la salida de emergencia?
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
I’m sure that there can be many issues, lack of supervision, intentional or non-intentional barriers, devices not working as they should, and so on. The discussion could be endless. But I think we want to establish the situation as it is. From all I’ve read, this is what one can expect in a pilgrim albergue on the Camino: At least one way to get out at all times; at least one poster or similar that indicates the way(s) out.

But we aren’t even certain whether these are the legal minimum requirements in all Spanish regions where there are albergues used by pilgrims.

As far as I can tell, smoke detectors for example are not mandatory so we must not expect them.
 
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Bristle Boy

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
I have read this thread with a great deal of interest.
I had to undergo annual fire courses and training with regard to my employment. The importance of escape cannot be over emphasised. An appreciation of the "fire triangle" is also helpful, this being point of ignition, fuel (in the form of combustible material) and oxygen. Deprive a fire of any of these and you don't have a fire.
Every life is precious.
I have difficulty comparing the true life experience of a fire with any other escape practice (such as school drills) as my recollection was that these were known in advance without any visible threat present.
Keep up the good work in bringing up this subject to a prominent issue on the forum.
There are too many ocassions when the usual platitudes of "We have learnt lessons" and "This must never happen again" are used.
 
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I had to undergo annual fire courses and training with regard to my employment. The importance of escape cannot be over emphasised. An appreciation of the "fire triangle" is also helpful, this being point of ignition, fuel (in the form of combustible material) and oxygen. Deprive a fire of any of these and you don't have a fire.
This "fire triangle" is very interesting for me to learn of, @Bristle Boy. Although I have enjoyed reading of everyone's personal experiences staying in the albergues, the posts that stand out to me are the few such as yours; where professional training in preventing fires, along with the various hospi's experiences; both carry the most weight for me.
I worked in a small office setting and a fire protection agency came out yearly to check out all of the fire extinguishers on premise, including signage, electrical wiring, etc. for compliance with regulations. Over the years, occasionally a few changes were in order and a return visit was made to ensure everything was rectified and up to code.
It would hope that similar regulations are in place in Spain and elsewhere, and checked on a reular basis.
 
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kelleymac

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
March/April 2015, Late April 2016, Sept/Oct 2017, April 2019.
So back in 1981, I was in a full hostel in Dublin when the adjacent building caught fire. It was in the middle of the night and we awoke to the smell of smoke and urgent voices saying "Grab your passport and get out". I slid on my shoes and was out the door. I was in a women's room with bunks, and about 20 to 30 other women. There was a men's room (the floor above me), and we could hear them moving too. A few panicked voices, but not many. Everyone got out -- and we watched the firemen work and stood in the light rain till dawn. And I was thinking-- was there a fire escape on the back of the building? (I remember no smoke alarms... (did they have them back then?) ) When the firefighters called the all clear (the fire was contained in the adjacent building), we headed back in, slept for a few hours, before leaving to head back to France. We found out later that four people had died in the adjacent building.

Usually I look to see where the exit is when entering a building with a crowd. But looking back, I realize that there were a couple of places I stayed on the Camino where it didn't even cross my mind. Maybe I was too tired at the end of the day. -- There was one place in France where we all had mattresses on the floor in a farmer's attic. One narrow staircase allowed access. Two small windows-- could I have fit through? Were there rolled up chain ladders to escape? (I have those in my own three story home.)

This post makes me realize I need to be more aware, and increase my vocabulary in French and Spanish.
 
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I stayed in a place in Ages, that made me really nervous. Apart from the glass shower door that fell off and hit me on the head and gave me an 'egg', there were so many bunks shoved in a room you could barely get down from the top bunk, as the other one was so close. The stairs were treacherous, and there were bars on the windows. I could just imagine the carnage if a fire broke out.
I stayed there a couple of weeks ago. I avoided the wack on the head however it felt like sleeping in a submarine. It was the only place open in winter so I was grateful for small mercies
 

Friend from Barquinha

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
None yet; perhaps the Portugese (2021?)
Recently in our home state, new fire and safety regulations have come into law for all short term rental accommodation. The main impetus has been the rise of Airbnb in recent years, with people offering private dwellings which didn’t have the same compliance as motels and hotels etc. Without compliance and a corresponding registration number, the property can no longer be listed with an agent or other online rental platform.

I know Albergues are not rental properties but the relevance - the three most important safety items now required are 1) smoke alarms, 2 ) evacuation diagrams in each room and 3) no key locks on the inside of doors, e.g. you can’t have people scrambling to find a key in the case of a fire. So the door has to be openable with a turn of a handle, flip of a lever or similar. The diagrams can be hand drawn as long as the layout is accurate and clearly show the exit in case of emergency

These items are relatively inexpensive. One or more of them could go a long way to improving safety, if it’s something individual Albergues were prepared to consider.
Regarding smoke alarms in Europe--this is a reply regarding Portugal rather than Spain, and strictly anecdotal but may be relevant, if EU and/or Iberian attitudes are standard...

When we were doing some basic electrical work and went to a local large building supply store in central Portugal (equivalent to a small Home Depot or Lowes, for those from North America), the question of smoke alarms came up. I was surprised to see almost none in the store's stock, compared to what I'd see here in Canada.

The staff member we were working with spoke English; he was curious and asked our nationality and we said "Canadian." He then told us the following story:

Our area has a large military base where NATO exercises are common. The store staffer commented that at the time of a large NATO exercise, a Canadian officer had come into the store and bought all the smoke detectors that they had, for the barracks that visiting NATO soldiers from Canada were staying in. Presumably battery-operated ones as he wouldn't have access to the wiring. He would not let his troops stay in the barracks otherwise. Smoke detectors were not standard issue in a Portuguese barracks!
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
I had to undergo annual fire courses and training with regard to my employment. The importance of escape cannot be over emphasised. An appreciation of the "fire triangle" is also helpful, this being point of ignition, fuel (in the form of combustible material) and oxygen. Deprive a fire of any of these and you don't have a fire.
Same here: As a skipper, I have had to take safety courses, including fire prevention and handling, health and life saving, panic control and handling, etc., regularly.

3 things are needed for a fire to start: (High enough) temperature, flammable material, and oxygen, as @Bristle Boy so correctly points out. Remove one of them if you can, and the fire will go out. If not, get out.

As for fire extinguishers: Here's how to use them: You can most often not put out a building fire with them. A 5 kg. container will typically only last for 6-8 seconds (!) if you pour it it out all at once. Focus on getting out, and help the people around you by pumping out small bursts on the floor to make your way out. Forget to save the building.

As for in your home: Many people keep their fire extinguishers in a wrong location, typicaally by the front door. If a fire starts at daytime, you will easily get out and be safe. The problem is, many fires start at nighttime when you are asleep: you are in your bedroom. The front door is where you want to go; most likely opposite from your bedroom... Keep your fire extinguisher in your bedroom, in order to make your way to the front door.

In albergues, ask for the emergency exits (donde esta la(s) salida(s) de emergencia) and memorize them. Check where there are fire extinguishers (donde esta los extintores de incendios). I always do these things when I stay in hotels f.ex.. If the albergue fails on these points, find another, or check how to secure yourself in case of an emergency.

Just my 0.02 Euros...

Edit: I have not heard of any fires in albergues so far, but they are bound to happen one day. Many are in old wooden buildings. More traffic, more people, many unskilled at these things, stupid kitchen behaviour etc. increase the risks...
 
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Jacobus

Pilgrim since 2008
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francés(2008,09 14)
Del Norte (2011)
Portuguese(2015,2017)
Inglés 2015
Fisterre (2015 17)
A brief add on to the fire triangle if I may. There is a fourth side to consider and that is chemical reaction. It is not part of the model but is an extra consideration where heat from an external source is not required.
For example a pile of linseed oiled rags if left alone can ignite in the absence of an external source of heat. This is known as spontaneous ignition or spontaneous combustion. The heat is chemically generated by the materials present to reach above the ignition temp for the rags and the pile will ignite if enough oxygen is present.
This happens in certain agricultural and laboratory environments as well.
It is taught in the fire service as part of the triangle of fire.
Cheers
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
A brief add on to the fire triangle if I may. There is a fourth side to consider and that is chemical reaction. It is not part of the model but is an extra consideration where heat from an external source is not required.
For example a pile of linseed oiled rags if left alone can ignite in the absence of an external source of heat. This is known as spontaneous ignition or spontaneous combustion. The heat is chemically generated by the materials present to reach above the ignition temp for the rags and the pile will ignite if enough oxygen is present.
This happens in certain agricultural and laboratory environments as well.
It is taught in the fire service as part of the triangle of fire.
Cheers
You are of course correct, but it is also in the fire triangle, as the element of heat. Heat may come from many sources, and what you correctly point out is one of them. Other sources are unattended cooking, drying socks/clothes on electric/wooden heaters, or other stupid behaviours.
 

alexwalker

Forever Pilgrim
Past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
drying socks/clothes on electric/wooden heaters
I have certainly been guilty of this a number of times on the Camino after arriving at albergues in cold, damp, or rainy weather, and at the time was thankful...I won't be doing that again.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
The best thing is for the hospitalero to put out some drying racks in a room with some heat.
Sometimes that was an option, sometimes not. The heaters were used when only outside clotheslines were the only option in inclement weather.
 
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chinacat

Veteran Member
PS I used to be responsible for fire safety in a lower and middle school and had an enormous amount of help from our wonderful fire brigade.

We had 4 exits on the ground floor and one on the first floor. It was a small building but still housed about 60 (plus staff) in the main building.
…. and no-one ever knew when the fire drill was coming, either …. I didn’t see the point of alerting anyone.
 

chinacat

Veteran Member
Wooden heaters are wood stoves; metal on the outside, with burning wood stoked on the inside, but I love your pun @chinacat.😂

Yup … we have one … but I couldn’t resist it!
And the very idea of anyone attempting to dry clothes on it … well, there are no words 🙄
Those electric oil-filled radiators must be kept uncovered too …

I grew up rescuing my mother from various kitchen fires … for an intelligent woman, she sometimes had remarkably little common sense (often the case 😉).
She once put some socks to dry on top of a gas fired grill (think it's ‘broiling’ in the US) … and then turned the heat on, to cook something … 🙄
They were mostly wool, thank heavens, but the nylon in them melted …
I let her tell my father … 😉😄
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I grew up rescuing my mother from various kitchen fires …
I loved you sharing your personal little story.🙂
I put my Camino socks and undies on the radiator heaters a few times (but no longer will.) On the few rainy days, my clothes stayed dry under my rainsuit, so I chose to wait and not wash them.
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I think that the real benefit of this thread is to raise awareness of fire safety as an issue to pay attention to in albergues and other accommodation on the Camino. Whether this albergue or that albergue really locks people in over night is, IMO, not as important as the fact that I need to pay attention when I arrive at any albergue to make sure there is a good exit strategy. It’s something that had never been on my radar screen.
 

chinacat

Veteran Member
I think that the real benefit of this thread is to raise awareness of fire safety as an issue to pay attention to in albergues and other accommodation on the Camino. Whether this albergue or that albergue really locks people in over night is, IMO, not as important as the fact that I need to pay attention when I arrive at any albergue to make sure there is a good exit strategy. It’s something that had never been on my radar screen.

It’s something many of us might well consider in our day-to-day lives but I have to confess to never having thought of it when I walked.
It’s a sobering thought …
 

Bristle Boy

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
I think that the real benefit of this thread is to raise awareness of fire safety as an issue to pay attention to in albergues and other accommodation on the Camino. Whether this albergue or that albergue really locks people in over night is, IMO, not as important as the fact that I need to pay attention when I arrive at any albergue to make sure there is a good exit strategy. It’s something that had never been on my radar screen.
You are quite right in your resume..the only comment I would make is that the practice (in some cases and for the best of reasons) of locking a point of access also restricts a point of egress in the eventuality if fire is experienced.
This thread does raise the issue in the consciences of those reading it which, again, is no bad thing.
In a way, anyone staying overnight is carrying out their own risk assessment and appraising themselves of the means of escape that may, or may not, be available to them.
As a homeowner I have warning mechanisms in place but no extinguishers (although I have thought of it). I also have a "duty of care" to anyone I invite into my home/property.
To raise this issue on the forum is the forum at it's best but it does raise the subject that in properties of multiple occupancy there could be deficiencies that have serious ramifications.
 
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chinacat

Veteran Member
As a homeowner I have warning mechanisms in place but no extinguishers (although I have thought of it). I also have a "duty of care" to anyone I invite into my home/property.

I keep two different types of fire extinguisher in the house (upstairs) … and keep them up-to-date … and another small one in the car.
And smoke alarms, of course. (Carbon monoxide alarms too.)

I’m relatively fire conscious: we live in an old building.
But, although I used to check youth hostels, b and b stays, and hotels etc. and made sure tents had two exits, it didn’t occur to me to consider the dangers in albergues.
I wish I knew why not …

I wonder if it has anything to do with the unique nature of pilgrimage?
There is, after all, a certain amount of ‘trust’ involved in taking on a long journey on foot, in a land where many of us are not familiar with the language, and where we may not always be confident in easily finding a bed for the night.
One can also find many other ‘unknowns’ eg some female pilgrims walking alone, dangers from traffic, health concerns to name a few.
Many of us set out with more than the usual amount of trust that we automatically assume in our everyday lives.

I’m not suggesting that any are careless for our own (and others’) safety when we walk but so many of us seem not to have thought much about this risk until this thread appeared.
 
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Bristle Boy

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
I keep two different types of fire extinguisher in the house (upstairs) … and keep them up-to-date … and another small one in the car.
And smoke alarms, of course. (Carbon monoxide alarms too.)

I’m relatively fire conscious: we live in an old building.
But, although I used to check youth hostels, b and b stays, and hotels etc. and made sure tents had two exits, it didn’t occur to me to consider the dangers in albergues.
I wish I knew why not …

I wonder if it has anything to do with the unique nature of pilgrimage?
There is, after all, a certain amount of ‘trust’ involved in taking on a long journey on foot, in a land where many of us are not familiar with the language, and where we may not always be confident in easily finding a bed for the night.
One can also find many other ‘unknowns’ eg some female pilgrims walking alone, dangers from traffic, health concerns to name a few.
Many of us set out with more than the usual amount of trust that we automatically assume in our everyday lives.

I’m not suggesting that any are careless for our own (and others’) safety when we walk but so many of us seem not to have thought much about this risk until this thread appeared.
Thank you.
I think, I hope, this thread has raised awareness of an important issue.
I wasn't going to enter this thread but felt that it was of such importance as to need (in some places) remedial action in the form of a risk assessment by the owners and operators of places of accomodation if they have not done so already.
From multiple appliances left on charge all night to the many mattresses covered in plastic capable of emitting noxious fumes there is a need to raise concerns and issues further up the agenda.
Thanks for listening.
 
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Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
I keep two different types of fire extinguisher in the house (upstairs) … and keep them up-to-date … and another small one in the car.
And smoke alarms, of course. (Carbon monoxide alarms too.)

I’m relatively fire conscious: we live in an old building.
But, although I used to check youth hostels, b and b stays, and hotels etc. and made sure tents had two exits, it didn’t occur to me to consider the dangers in albergues.
I wish I knew why not …

I wonder if it has anything to do with the unique nature of pilgrimage?
There is, after all, a certain amount of ‘trust’ involved in taking on a long journey on foot, in a land where many of us are not familiar with the language, and where we may not always be confident in easily finding a bed for the night.
One can also find many other ‘unknowns’ eg some female pilgrims walking alone, dangers from traffic, health concerns to name a few.
Many of us set out with more than the usual amount of trust that we automatically assume in our everyday lives.

I’m not suggesting that any are careless for our own (and others’) safety when we walk but so many of us seem not to have thought much about this risk until this thread appeared.
I have thought about this a lot over the course of this thread, and I am inclined to say that you are right: it is partly "trust" as you say...
...and also the "be grateful for anything" and "what do you expect for 5 euros?" admonishments that can prevail in ideas about how pilgrims should approach things.

As with my perception about the attitudes toward camino that can produce injury (that have to do with suffering, doing it the "right way" etc etc), I think that perhaps collectively we need to pull back * little bit* from "be grateful you are not sleeping outside" to "yes, be grateful, and be aware/attentive; move on from what is not safe". I will never again sleep in that mountain town with the fire chimney that calls itself an albergue.

Nor places that are so crowded that people are on the floors...

I've always been pretty attentive to the other stuff. I've never stayed in a place that locked people *in*, only in places that locked the doors at night (including a rather fancy and modern hotel in SdC near the train station). I had a real difficulty trying to figure out how to leave that one to meet my train in the early morning! As I try to think of how I solved that issue, I cannot. I recall that Idecided I had to do something that is seemed was "against the rules" but I also figured that it had to be against some law for the *hotel* to make it impossible for guests to leave. As far as I can recall that had been a matter of an understaffed desk... and the clerk had gone somewhere and locked up the doors. I waited about half an hour before doing whatever I did... which honestly I cannot recall now... I know I left by the main doors, but I have a feeling I had to leave them unlocked or something...

At any rate, I do think there are messages/attitudes/opinions that, put in the wrong hands, or without enough contextualization, can lead people to being too trusting, or grateful to the point of not considering danger (forgetting that we are actually paying in order to be safe while we sleep; otherwise, yes... we'd all crash on the steps of the churches, on the hay bales etc).

Happy am I to sleep in very modest conditions, but I've also learned (as have others) to walk on from what does not feel right for me, and from what is *obviously* unsafe (for me: that's crowding).

I don't think we need to be driven by terrors about safety and risk, and I do think that accepting risk into our lives is the only way forward as a baseline mortal creature... But I do not see a need for accepting things as they are to be a hard acceleration on foolishness.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
Happy am I to sleep in very modest conditions, but I've also learned (as have others) to walk on from what does not feel right for me, and from what is *obviously* unsafe (for me: that's crowding).
This would be another topic for volunteer hospitaleros to get acquainted with if this is not done on the basis of protocol: Are there legal requirements to comply with as to the maximum numbers of pilgrims who can stay. From what I've read, it sounded as if regional administrations require albergues to display a notice where the maximum number of occupants is shown. Again: Not a question of philosophy and compassion but a question of compliance with public safety rules if there is such an obligation.
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
This would be another topic for volunteer hospitaleros to get acquainted with if this is not done on the basis of protocol: Are there legal requirements to comply with as to the maximum numbers of pilgrims who can stay. From what I've read, it sounded as if regional administrations require albergues to display a notice where the maximum number of occupants is shown. Again: Not a question of philosophy and compassion but a question of compliance with public safety rules if there is such an obligation.
Agreed...
Still think that when it comes to *thinking about what decision to take* when we encounter something that is just not something we would normally accept to do a moment of reflection to the effect of "Is this modest and fine? or is this dangerous?"
I can recall many modest locations -- municipal mostly -- that were safe, clean, well cared for etc etc. I think that would be generally true.
I know I have encountered a few private locations that I would avoid in future even if it were to mean walking on in an exhausted state (or knowing to stop earlier).
And there was one muni that I would never stay in again in a high season, filled to beyond capacity. I would stay there if it were "covid full" -- as the issue concerning me is not "has it reached capacity?" but rather, "Are there people sleeping on the floor, right up to the doorframe?"
We *don't have to humbly and gratefully accept* dangerous conditions, and I think that many of us have given up attention to that (if some comments on this thread are accurate) because of the "don't ask; be grateful" thing...
 
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Ianinam

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2013 / CP 2018
A first step would be to find out to what extent this is even an issue. When the door is locked by hospitaleros, what does it mean. Do they look the door with a key and remove the key? Put the key on a hook next to the door? How is this done at Roncesvalles for example, a large albergue where many forum members have stayed or been hospitaleros. I would think that they have procedures to follow?
In Roncesvalles there are three big doors in the corridor downstairs and one door in the basement (near the laundry), which are all closed by the hospitaleros at 22.00 am. Not wit a key, they are simply closed for people who want to come in from outside, but can always be opened from inside. The same counts for the doors in the winter-albergue.

Reading this thread I now realise that all doors open to the inside .... So I will discuss this item during our next working group meeting, though I am afraid the Colegiata will not be able to change this.

In every dormitory there are smokedetectors and the fire-alarm is loud enough to wake up everybody. Last autumn we found out that the hospitaleros - sleeping in the hospitalero accomodation - did not hear the fire alarm loud enough to wake them up, so this will be fixed during the winter.
When the fire-alarm goes off all the in-between-doors in the building (doors to the stairs) close automatically to prevent the fire from expanding to other areas/floors, but they are not shut, only closed and can be opened at any time.

There are two wide stairs, one at one side of the dormitory of wood, one at the other side of the dormitory of stone.

The fire-alarm is automatically connected with the emergency center in Bilbao, as soon as there is a fire they will send 'bomberos' to the albergue.

On their first or second day after arrival all groups of hospitaleros have a short instruction by their 'jefe' (an experienced hospitalero who takes the lead in case of emergencies) about the evacuation-plan and do some excercise with the firehoses.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
In Roncesvalles there are [...]
Hi @Ianinam, I was hoping that you would see the thread and provide information. Thank you! I think the renovation of the building where the albergue of Roncesvalles is was finished in 2011 or so? Also good to hear that the volunteer hospitaleros are made familiar with the evacuation plan and equipment at the start of their 2-week stay.

As to doors in general and whether they open outwards or not: I think that we should not forget that there is a difference between what is feasible or desirable, or even just so familiar to us that we take it for granted, and what is legal requirement in Spain or in the Spanish region concerned.

Thanks again for taking the time to reply! Very interesting to read.
 

Ianinam

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2013 / CP 2018
@Kathar1na, yes, the albergue Aterpea with 183 beds was opened in May 2011.

We try to prepare new hospitaleros as good as possible for their task as we all feel quite responsible for all those tired pilgrims who need their rest! Prior to their stay in Roncesvalles new hospitaleros must attend an instruction-/trainingday in February in the Netherlands.
Also every year the 'jefes' have their own training-/instructionday prior to their stay in Roncesvalles.
And of course the evacuationplan and firehose instructions in Roncesvalles must be attended by all hospitaleros, both new and experienced.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
I don't think that we will find a rule that says you must not lock doors. The rules usually say something along the lines that there must be a plan for emergency routes and that these routes must not be blocked.
Absolutely true. But it is also pretty clear that a locked door will quite effectively block a route if that door is not openable. So if all egresses are locked (for example, to ensure that no pilgrims leave too early and everyone gets a good sleep, which I've heard happens in some albergues) then there is no unblocked emergency route.
 

Bristle Boy

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
Absolutely true. But it is also pretty clear that a locked door will quite effectively block a route if that door is not openable. So if all egresses are locked (for example, to ensure that no pilgrims leave too early and everyone gets a good sleep, which I've heard happens in some albergues) then there is no unblocked emergency route.
If there were a fire you cannot choose where an outbreak occurs. There could be the possibility that your egress from an albergue (or whatever premise) to a designated fire exit was blocked. The main door to a premise would then be your fire exit. To have that locked is an accident waiting to happen.
As has been stated in previous posts this is illegal.
 
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nathanael

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte, Plata,
This very sad news just stresses once again how important it is for peregrinos to make sure about emergency exits in albergues.


This report reminded me of our recent discussion about fire safety in albergues.

Thankfully the building was not occupied at the time of the fire.
on the subject of importance in a get a way, The Auberge in Sahagun operated by the Benedictine Sisters is of concern. I stayed there about four years ago and a French lady wanted to leave early but was unable we had been locked inside. I don't know whether this has changed but it is of concern. Mine you it is a great place to other than the locked in.
 

IngridF

Intrepid Peregrina
Past OR future Camino
2012, 2015 ,2017, 2019
on the subject of importance in a get a way, The Auberge in Sahagun operated by the Benedictine Sisters is of concern. I stayed there about four years ago and a French lady wanted to leave early but was unable we had been locked inside. I don't know whether this has changed but it is of concern. Mine you it is a great place to other than the locked in.
It is not locked from the inside. Please double check your source before spreading rumours. Having been hospitalera at Santa Cruz, I know the facts.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
It is not locked from the inside. Please double check your source before spreading rumours. Having been hospitalera at Santa Cruz, I know the facts.

Maybe @nathanael was there before things changed. I had a vivid memory of @Reb’s description of the convent — and you can see it is consistent with what @nathanael remembered. But it’s good to know that it is different now.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
It is not locked from the inside. Please double check your source before spreading rumours. Having been hospitalera at Santa Cruz, I know the facts.
@IngridF, since fire safety is a topic of concern for pilgrims, could you perhaps explain a bit more, either here or, perhaps better, in the thread about Fire Safety in Albergues? Are pilgrims locked into the building in Sahagun where you were a hospitalera or would they be locked into the cloister's grounds, as it appears from the linked 2015 thread, and if so, would that be still a safety issue in case of a fire or is it more a "we pilgrims can't leave when we want to" issue?

I've taken a bit of an interest in the topic, and I have even emailed one association who manages a well-known large albergue and from all this I get the impression that, in numerous cases, pilgrims are not informed about the exits (and their mechanism) that do exist and that they can take in an emergency.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
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Frances 2015;
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Frances 2017;
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Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
in numerous cases, pilgrims are not informed about the exits (and their mechanism) that do exist and that they can take in an emergency.
Walking the Frances in 2015 and again in 2017 I have stayed almost exclusively in albergues, and stayed in a few on other Caminos, as well. I do not recall even one instance when I was informed of any emergency exits, or that we would be fully locked in all night long.
Hotels often seem to have obvious neon lit exit signs, and often a map on the back of your room door showing the escape route, which I have noticed both at home and abroad.
 
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IngridF

Intrepid Peregrina
Past OR future Camino
2012, 2015 ,2017, 2019
@IngridF, since fire safety is a topic of concern for pilgrims, could you perhaps explain a bit more, either here or, perhaps better, in the thread about Fire Safety in Albergues? Are pilgrims locked into the building in Sahagun where you were a hospitalera or would they be locked into the cloister's grounds, as it appears from the linked 2015 thread, and if so, would that be still a safety issue in case of a fire or is it more a "we pilgrims can't leave when we want to" issue?

I've taken a bit of an interest in the topic, and I have even emailed one association who manages a well-known large albergue and from all this I get the impression that, in numerous cases, pilgrims are not informed about the exits (and their mechanism) that do exist and that they can take in an emergency.
A quick response: the albergue is locked by levers easily pulled down to open the door from the inside whilst preventing entry after curfew. Santa Cruz, in 2019 when I was hospitalera was staffed with 1 hospi for the night. The priests do not stay at the albergue overnight. Recalling a few stragglers (mostly Spanish, they do love to party into the wee hours) and me putting up my frowning demeanor when woken in the middle of the night to let them in.
I have no insight to what the rules are at the convent for the nuns. My daily contact happened at the shared dish washing station and convent kitchen where we accessed refrigeration. No pilgrims were allowed into that kitchen.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I have no insight to what the rules are at the convent for the nuns.
That explains the confusion and the different statements about fire safety. Before 2017, the albergue was run by the sisters. This was what Rebekah described in the post I linked to above, and presumably what @nathanael remembers.

In 2017, Marist priests took over the albergue. New management, new fire exits!

And now I am going to move all of these posts over to the fire safety thread.
 

Damienw

Mr
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francais 2018

Camino VDP / San Arbres 2019
The municipal alberque in Estella in March 2018 had its front door locked until 7am in the morning. They also turned off the lights and power at the fuse box so we all sat in the dark in the kitchen and entrance lobby waiting for the Hospitalero to arrive From outside to unlock the front door.

This is a very crowded hostel on 3 floors and evacuation in the event of a fire would only have been by the windows on the first floor. I think, If there had been a fire in the kitchen downstairs the smoke would have made the central staircase impassable for the top 2 floors.

The newly refurbished municipal alberque in Sahagun above a church hall has no alternative staircase to the dormitory. The staircase itself is entirely wooden !

The municipal alberque in Astorga is also locked for the night but fortunately it’s by a deadbolt which can be opened from inside and if the overhead lights are left on!
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances; Aragones; VdlP; Madrid-Invierno; Levante
The front door at the municipal albergue in Najera can always be opened from the inside simply by pushing the inside handle. I had to learn how to lock and unlock the door from the outside. Our only challenge with the door being locked was with persons returning at the last minute (or a little bit later) from an evening meal and partying in the town. Some wanted time outdoors to have a last smoke after official lights out, but understood that they would not be able to get in from outside when I said "No."
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
@IngridF, since fire safety is a topic of concern for pilgrims, could you perhaps explain a bit more, either here or, perhaps better, in the thread about Fire Safety in Albergues? Are pilgrims locked into the building in Sahagun where you were a hospitalera or would they be locked into the cloister's grounds, as it appears from the linked 2015 thread, and if so, would that be still a safety issue in case of a fire or is it more a "we pilgrims can't leave when we want to" issue?

I've taken a bit of an interest in the topic, and I have even emailed one association who manages a well-known large albergue and from all this I get the impression that, in numerous cases, pilgrims are not informed about the exits (and their mechanism) that do exist and that they can take in an emergency.
I think Ingrid was saying in the passage that you quote that it is not locked from the inside. If that is the case none of the options you provide above (Are pilgrims locked into the building in Sahagun where you were a hospitalera or would they be locked into the cloister's grounds, as it appears from the linked 2015 thread, and if so, would that be still a safety issue in case of a fire or is it more a "we pilgrims can't leave when we want to" issue?) are applicable.
 
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Stephan the Painter

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2022
A very interesting discussion. I think it would be most interesting to talk to a Spanish fireman about this. Perhaps someone who is at management level. That would be the person who knows the most about regulations.

I would also point out that door handles that need a key from the outside, but can be opened without a key from the inside are quite common, relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

If an Albergue doesn’t like doing this, it’s because they don’t like what usually happens, which is that someone wants to go outside and then leaves something to prop the door open. Security for things like that, etc. are always an issue, but I think fire safety is more important.

As some noted early in the thread, it is illegal to lock people into lodging at night. Probably under both EU law and Spanish law. Even if people are having trouble finding this information online. Sometimes things are so obvious to anyone concerned, that they’re not carefully spelled out.

It is, however, possible older establishments are grandfathered out of the most modern fire codes.

But do people really think a Spanish fireman or fire safety inspector would think it was OK the lock people into a building? I can’t imagine the culture is any different in Spain than from where I live, where a fireman’s main concern is to prevent loss of life.

My question was who would one report this to? There seem to be like six different levels of police in Spain. Just 112? Or fill out fill out an hoja de reclamación/complaint form that all commercial establishments are required to have. And then do what with it?

My guess is possibly in Spain usually one wouldn’t get much result from doing this. After reading this thread.
 
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BombayBill

Still Learning
Past OR future Camino
2022 Piemont or Arles or Primitivo
In 2017 I was on the GR10 staying in a gite that boasted emergency lighting and smoke detectors near SJPP. One of my bunk mates lamented that it was expensive and “where were the old more affordable gites?”.
I later spoke with the owner commenting on how nice his gite was. He told me that government had cracked down on unsafe gites after a number of fires. The new regulations required the upgrades hence the upgraded prices.
I’ve no problem with that. Here in Canada I know of fires in mountain huts. The cause was cheap chargers used to charge cheap ni-cad batteries and left unattended. It was enough for me to toss away my cheap chargers and stick to quality brands.
 

good_old_shoes

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
@BombayBill Smoke detectors and emergency exit lights are not very expensive and can be added to any room easily - I don't really see how that would warrant a massive increase in prices? An exit light is like 30€ on amazon and smoke detectors cost even less... I'm no expert, though, maybe commercial places need special certified ones that are more expensive?

If 'normal' smoke detectors like the ones you can buy for your own home would be acceptable, it would be easy to buy them and donate to favourite albergues that don't have them yet.
 

Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
@BombayBill Smoke detectors and emergency exit lights are not very expensive and can be added to any room easily - I don't really see how that would warrant a massive increase in prices? An exit light is like 30€ on amazon and smoke detectors cost even less... I'm no expert, though, maybe commercial places need special certified ones that are more expensive?

If 'normal' smoke detectors like the ones you can buy for your own home would be acceptable, it would be easy to buy them and donate to favourite albergues that don't have them yet.
Smoke detectors need to be hard-wired with fire-proof cabling etc. They need to be installed and certified by a qualified electrician. Most buildings must have fire-routes and exits where doors open outwards, though there may be exceptions for historic buildings. It's not as simple as just buying a couple of lights off Amazon.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
My question was who would one report this to?
I think the first thing to do is to talk to the albergue owner or manager to find out whether there really is no emergency plan and not a single emergency exit that can be used in case of a fire to get out. Some comments in forum threads refer to stays that happened many years ago, others are not accurate.

One large albergue on the Camino Frances where a number of posters report that they, or pilgrims they heard of, could not get out in the morning, does have such a plan and such provisions. In this case, pilgrims say that they, or others, had to wait at the front door until it got unlocked but the large albergue has marked emergency exits and so-called panic doors that lead to a courtyard where there is a button to press and you are out on the street.

Needless to say: Under normal circumstances, when the albergue rules say that you should not leave before a certain time, then you should wait until this time. You implicitly agreed to this when you entered into the contract to spend the night.

There are no EU-wide regulations about fire safety in albergues or other buildings. In Spain, there are regional and local regulations. When you enter for example albergue turistico salida emergencia into Google Search, you can find a number of such regulations. Pilgrim albergues, with the exception of donativo albergues, are a subcategory of the albergues turisticos in regional Spanish legislation.

If I had serious concerns and had made an enquiry with the albergue owner or albergue manager or association that I'd find not satisfactory and I'd be concerned for the health of pilgrims, I'd probably use the AlertCops app to make a report. I'd expect to hear back from them about what they'd do or what I could do. Has any of you done this? Contacting the local or regional fire brigade (bomberos) might also be a an idea. The worst idea is do nothing and write about it on the internet.
 
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