Hotel Security: Designing a Compliance Program to Protect Against Threats and Liability

By February 15, 2018 Blog No Comments
Laura Shidlovitsky

Laura I. Shidlovitsky
Of Counsel
626-365-0328
lshidlovitsky@hickeysmith.com

Hotel Security

The deadly shooting by gunman Stephen Paddock at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas last year has raised questions for hotel operators of how to balance keeping their guests safe without imposing drastic safety measures and restrictions that interfere with the guests’ travel experience.According to police, Stephen Paddock stockpiled nearly two dozen firearms in his hotel room for three days before firing from the window of his suite located on the 32nd floor into the crowd of 22,000 concertgoers on the ground across the street. Paddock allegedly arrived at the hotel with ten suitcases filled with the firearms. While security experts appear to agree that not much could have been done by Mandalay Bay to prevent this attack, the tragic incident underscores just how instrumental having effective hotel management and maintenance policies, including a safety compliance program, is to avoid future catastrophes and other serious injuries to hotel guests.

Following this tragic accident, some hotel chains have increased their security by having guards scan guests with metal detectors and check their bags upon the guests’ entry into the hotel. Although, security experts believe that most hotels are unlikely to install such measures due to the costs that are involved or because they don’t want to risk alienating guests by the higher security and resulting inconvenience. Short of screening of guests, there are some measures that hotels can take to ensure that they comply with their duty to maintain their property safely.

For those hotels that have the budget to acquire the necessary equipment and staffing, some experts propose mandating that bellhops collect guests’ bags at check-in and then scan and screen the bags before delivering them to the guests’ rooms.  Hotel chains can further implement policies covering firearms on their properties, which either prohibit firearms on hotel property altogether or permit unloaded weapons for storage purposes only requiring the weapons to remain locked in a firearm container. Hotels can also institute do-not-disturb policies, which despite the guests’ requests require the hotel staff to check on the guests who do not leave their room and ask not to be disturbed for more than 12 consecutive hours.

Hotel Management can improve security on their properties by taking a few important steps, including the following:

  1. Make Time for Safety Meetings. All hotels should have regularly scheduled meetings to address hotel safety. The meetings should include training videos and other information designed to train the hotel staff about guest safety, including teaching employees how to spot suspicious behavior. Management should train all staff on how to effectively assess the hotel for potential security threats at all times, as well as how to report the suspicious activity and protect guests from harm where appropriate. Training should include emergency and security drills. In addition to being courteous and friendly with their guests, hotels can also encourage their employees to share an interest in the guests when. For instance, asking someone the purpose of their visit and duration of their stay in addition to simply saying hello and asking about their day, can enable hotel staff to detect any suspicious activity.
  1. Monitor the Video Surveillance. Most hotels have surveillance equipment, but not all have the staff necessary to watch the monitors the entire time. With the aid of software, video cameras can now recognize activity in designated areas and provide alerts of that activity, thereby eliminating the need to watch hours of surveillance videos to detect the criminal activity. Some of the systems have voice commands which allow operators to alert suspects captured on the surveillance. Another alternative is to hire third-party companies to monitor the surveillance.
  1. Have a Clear Emergency Response Plan. Each hotel should have a security program unique to the property, which outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a security breach. An emergency preparation plan should clearly define critical roles and responsibilities and include a system of communication for reaching guests, employees, and emergency services organizations. It should also include a clear evacuation plan for guests and employees. Hotel management should meet with law enforcement and emergency services personnel on a regular basis to ensure they are informed about any ongoing threats so they may update the emergency response plan to address the threats.
  1. Review and Update Your Hotel Safety Program. All hotels should develop security guidelines and systems that address each hotel’s unique security needs. The policies should address the risks in light of the hotel’s specific combination of threats and vulnerabilities.

Also, security directors should continuously monitor hotel conditions and report any new threats or hazards not currently accounted for in the hotel policies, and update the policies to address any new threats. Experts recommend that hotels review and update their hotel safety policies and practices at least once a year.

Hotel security may never be perfect. However, a properly designed security compliance program can provide significant benefits and protect a hotel in case of legal investigations or disputes.

For further suggestions on how to improve hotel security or to request assistance with updating hotel security policies please contact:

Jason Balogh
jbalogh@hickeysmith.com
415.813.4455

Laura Shidlovitsky
lshidlovitsky@hickeysmith.com
626.365.0328

 

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