Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio September
Back to Basics
By Oren Jaffe, CMP
EVALUATING HOTEL SECURITY
How planners can put attendee and staff safety first during
Earlier this year, NBC’s Dateline exposed some hotels’ poor
safety policies. Among the incidents cited: security guards
sleeping on the job, guest room doors without deadbolts or chains
and front desk personnel issuing “lost” keys to unidentified
people. Even more alarming: failure to change room locks and keys
after a guest departs, and even after a rape, burglary or assault
in a room the perpetrator entered with a hotel-issued key.
The program showed many hotels are guilty of poor safety
policies and practices. Electronic key cards, for example, often
are not programmed to deactivate until a day or even a week after
the guest departs, allowing a former guest entry into a room. That
key also could be used to enter an exterior door, putting all
guests in jeopardy.
Moreover, no organization not even the American Hotel and Motel
Association maintains property safety records or establishes
policies for the industry. The AH&MA only “encourages” good
safety policies and procedures. The only way meeting professionals
and guests can find out a property’s safety record is by asking the
property to produce it. However, the property has no obligation to
When evaluating a property, take the time to ask questions, and
definitely include safety issues in your site inspection. Ask to
see the property’s security/incident record, and find out if the
local police will provide any information.
What else can meeting professionals do?
Check the locks. Examine doors and locks all over
the hotel, especially entrances and guest rooms. Look for
deadbolts, chains and peepholes.
Get it on paper. Ask for a copy of the
property’s safety policies and procedures. If nothing is in
writing, that should be a serious red flag.
Check who’s on guard. Ask about the presence
and schedule of security guards, and speak with the security
company about its incident history. Get the statistics in writing,
if you can. Whether the property directly employs guards or
contracts with an outside company, it can be held liable for the
guards’ incompetence when security is breached.
Know the property. How secure are external
entrances to the parking lot? Do they open into hidden or dark
Inspect the lights. Examine the presence and
condition of internal and external lighting. Ask when outside
lights go on. Check that hallways and stairways are always properly
lit, and parking lots are well lit after dark.
Use force. Ask the sales manager or security
guard to allow you to try to open entrances and guest room doors
when they are locked to determine the strength of the locks.
Check ID. Speak with the front office and
general manager to ensure that all people requesting “lost” keys
are required to provide ID, and get a copy of this policy in
writing. Conduct surprise inspections for verification.
Pick up the phone. Verify that all guest room
telephones have direct 911 access. Check the keys. Inquire about
the type of keys used by guests (metal, electronic card, electronic
card with holes). Hotels should rekey rooms right after the guest
has checked out. Get in writing from the hotel how frequently room
keys are changed (immediately after a guest checks out, one day
Ask who has access. Find out who on staff has
keys to which areas, including who has master keys.
Follow the ADA. Determine how easily and
quickly a disabled person will be able to get help from the front
desk or the police.
Walk away. If a property is uncooperative
and/or fails to live up to your safety standards, immediately take
it off your selection list.Oren Jaffe, CMP, is director of meeting services at Rockville,
Md.-based Cygnus Corp.
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