Even though hotels have not been the sites of most of the mass shootings in the U.S., hoteliers should take measures to protect themselves, their guests and their properties.
In this country, we are reminded every few months that despite living in one of the freest and safest nations in the world, we are by no means immune to danger.
I’m referring specifically to the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, earlier this month, but I could easily be talking about San Bernardino, California; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; Washington, D.C.—I could go on, but the list is depressingly long.
While U.S. hotels have been the sites of shootings in the past, the industry worldwide has seen more than its fair share of gunmen and acts of terrorism. As these mass shootings in the U.S. show no signs of stopping any time soon, hoteliers need to make sure they keep security in mind as much as they do hospitality.
A few months ago, I wrote a story about working security measures into a hotel’s physical design. The lessons in that story are still relevant, but it’s just as crucial to have a hotel staff that is prepared to prevent and handle any acts of violence.
Following the news of the shooting in Orlando, I reached out to a number of management companies, asset managers and big brands to learn a little more about how these companies train their staff to prevent potential violence, how to prepare for it should it occur and what to do if it actually happens at one of their properties. It should come as little surprise to you that most decline to comment, citing concerns about sharing this sort of information, which is understandable.
Michael Doyle, managing director and executive VP; and Larry Trabulsi, SVP, at CHMWarnick spoke with me about some of their general security policies and procedures they have as asset managers to make their properties safer.
“They’re seemingly following a pattern over the last couple of years,” Doyle said, referring to the number of mass shootings in the U.S. “We really do think the hotel industry has taken a different approach to security in general since 9/11.”
CHMWarnick organizes security into three main categories: guest safety, staff safety and the property, he said, with guests and staff taking priority over property.
The importance of “If you see something, say something,” can’t be overstated, he said. Staff members see a high volume of people at their properties, so if they see something odd or out of place, they need to say something.
“We’re not looking for you to engage that individual or take any action, just bring it to the attention of someone who can make the decision of what to do next,” he said.
Training the staff how to prevent and handle active shooters is not a comfortable situation, Doyle said, but it is necessary.
“The staff I talked to who have gone through it, as disruptive and frightening as it is to imagining it happening in the work place that they feel comfortable enough to work in, the staff feels better that (the training) happened,” he said. “You address it head-on and make them as comfortable as possible.”
Hotel companies need tightened policies and practices when checking in guests, Doyle said, but not to the point of putting guests through another airport screening. Make sure guests have the proper credit card and ID to be checked in and allowed access to where others are staying, he said.
In the past couple of years, CHMWarnick has started restricting access to certain areas to make guests safer, Trabulsi said. The company uses guestroom key card readers in elevators for limited access to certain floors and has reinvested in electronic locks.
“We’re making sure people are not getting into spots they shouldn’t be getting into,” he said.
Having a staff trained to stay aware of any potential problems or red flags is a great addition to the overall safety of the property, but their No. 1 focus isn’t security. That should fall to the security staff itself, but there’s more to it than monitoring camera feeds.
The security team and hotel staff should have a relationship with outside authorities, Doyle advised, explaining it could be a combination of local law enforcement with state and/or federal authorities depending on the location of the property and any events going on in the area.
“The important message is to ensure the hotels and management of the hotels are engaged with and have relationships with outside authorities,” he said. “You can easily pick up the phone and ask for help.”
The police can be just as helpful as third-party security trainers to help the staff prepare, Trabulsi said.
Off-duty police officers can also compliment a hotel’s security staff. Owners might not want the in-house security team to be armed, Doyle said, so hiring off-duty officers from local departments who are legally armed is a viable alternative.
Keep in mind that one training session or a notice about a change in policy isn’t enough. People forget. They make mistakes. Ongoing training and reminders help keep that mindset fresh.
“It’s not something you take care of this week and then put that book on the shelf,” Doyle said. “It needs to be visited every day.”
I’m curious what thoughts and ideas you have for hotel security and how you find that right balance of hospitality and safety without going too far in one direction or the other. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @HNN_Bryan.
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