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Placing guests at the heart of safety - Part 2

Safety and security of hotels, be it prevention of accidents, theft or for fire safety, is not only the business of the security department. Yes, it is their core responsibility, but it is also every employees business, and everyone in the hotel including those who work in partnership with the hotel must contribute towards it. Hotels must lay down these priorities so that it’s monitoring and actions are proactively (unlike reactively), in harmony with the identified priorities.


These priorities must embrace unwavering care for guest and employee life; guest and employee health and guest and employee property. The basic causes of accidents are inadequate safety standards, People acting in an uncharacteristic or unaccustomed manner, or a combination of all. Whilst some hotels, especially – but not necessarily all, who belong to reputed brands or chain of hotels are diligent in ensuring adequate safety standards, it is not the case in the majority of hotels. Several hotels that practice safety standards do so in a small and loosely defined circle of control, driven more by the need to comply with the local regulations than for the well-being of its guest and employees.


Understanding and managing the risks


As Chris E. McGoey explains “What most hotel guests are still not particularly aware of when travelling on business or pleasure is that your hotel room becomes your home for the night and is your sanctuary while you sleep. It is important to give some thought about security planning. What hotel are you going to select, and what room are you going to accept? The cost of the hotel room is not the best predictor of how safe the room will be. There are a few security rules of thumb that should apply to any hotel room you rent.”


McGoey goes on to add “Upper floors are generally safer from crime but worse for fire rescue. Emergency rescue is best below the 5th floor. I compromise by picking a modern fire-safe and always request a room on the upper floor to reduce crime exposure. Ground floor rooms are more vulnerable to crime problems because of access and ease of escape. In a high rise building, rooms above the fifth floor are safer for that reason. Also rooms not adjacent to fire stairs are safer from room invaders because they use them for escape. Criminals do not want to be trapped on an upper floor inside a high rise hotel. By design, high rise buildings usually have fewer ground level access points and are easier for the hotel staff to monitor who passes through the lobby after hours”.


Perhaps one of the first and most famous cases of a security lapse on the part of a hotel was the case of Garzelli vs Howard Johnson Motor Lodges in 1976.In this case popular singer and entertainer Connie Francis was staying at the Howard Johnson hotel in Westbury, New York. She was criminally assaulted and raped by a man who entered her ground room through the room’s sliding glass doors. From the inside the doors gave an appearance of been locked, but they could be opened from the outside without difficulty.


Based on psychiatric testimony that her lucrative career was ruined because of this traumatic experience, Francis was awarded US$ 2.5 Million. She never successfully performed since, despite several attempted ‘comebacks’. The court opined that the hotel had violated basic principles of security by providing sliding doors that could be opened from the outside.


The hotel’s fault was a relatively slight oversight that led to a tragic incident that could have been prevented. Doors that appear to be locked but do not in fact do so, are an open invitation to all kinds of trouble.


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