The many aspects of security at hotels boil down to policy and technology. The policy element includes emergency planning and the individual procedures implemented by a hotel. Technology now plays an integral role in the security mix, from badging and staffing communications to electronic keys and surveillance cameras. Hotels are attractive places for criminals to target travelers, who are inherently more vulnerable. Best bet: Always assess a hotel neighborhood and facilities with the same vigilance as at home or in other public spaces. Help your meeting attendees understand the policies and potential risks before they arrive.
“Planners should start talking about security issues before the contract negotiation process begins. It should be part of the site inspection and RFP document,” says Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “The level of security issues to be addressed really depends on the type of group and who the attendees will be.” In many cases, hotels won’t offer information on security procedures, as that could nullify their effectiveness if they were revealed. Planners can include a detailed list of security requirements a group expects in supplier contracts. In general, hotels anticipate most security needs planners expect. It’s in their best interest to keep guests safe in the event of an emergency, natural disaster or threat from criminal behavior.
Security Questions for Hotels
When performing site inspections for future meetings or during the initial stages of negotiating a contract, inquire about security procedures, policies or potential threats. Specific programs may drive what set of questions to ask.
-Will trade-show exhibitors require secure storage for any display items?
-Are there areas near a hotel that attendees should be warned to avoid?
-Are hotel employees CPR certified?
-Is defibrillator equipment available onsite?
-Are there any policies and procedures organizers should be aware of in the event of an emergency?
These are all part of the planning checklist for any event, but making sure they’re covered can help alleviate any potential mishap.
Women-Only Floors Make a Comeback
Having fallen out of favor for a decade or more due to hints of sexism, the concept of secure floors for women only at hotels is staging a return. The idea is to provide additional security measures to ensure the safety of single female travelers and to offer unique room amenities and services that may appeal to those guests. Female room attendants, secure floor entry, networking events, extra hangers and gender-specific in-room appliances, personal amenities and magazines are just a few of the innovations used to attract women travelers. The option, often requiring an additional charge, has popped up around the world, including at hotels in New York, Copenhagen and Delhi.
A few basics for preventing security breaches are worth revisiting and can be useful as a reminder to include along with program information for event attendees. The national security slogan, “if you see something, say something” works remarkably well. Some standard procedures:
-Never verbalize aloud a guest’s hotel room number or location, period.
-Get to know the emergency exits from your hotel room.
-Never plan to meet a stranger in your room. Meet in a public area.
-Verify visitors at your hotel door and get a visual using the door’s peephole. Confirm with a hotel manager or front desk attendent if unexpected staff request entry.
-Close doors and gates that prevent nonguests from entering specific areas.
-Check the ID of registrants before distributing badges or other materials.
-Secure computers or other devices when not in use to avoid data theft.
-Use the locks, chains or other devices provided to secure doors.
In addition to individual attendee security, group gatherings require extra vigilance. You’ve spent time and effort to plan the perfect outdoor event or ballroom extravaganza. Don’t let your guard down during all the fun. Be sure to have adequate staffing arranged so that only invited attendees are entering and exiting private event areas. Gate crashers come in all forms and the smartest ones know how to talk their way into an event. Other “uninviteds” may simply wander into a party in a public area assuming food and beverages are for all hotel guests.
Large programs that use a hotel’s convention facilities extensively may require additional security for trade-show load-ins, monitoring parking services or mulitple points of entry. Other shows need more sophisticated badging, monitoring and surveillance systems.
In an era of budget cutbacks, security can be an easy line item to delete. But risks remain, and continued scrutiny of a hotel’s security features and procedures for unexpected incidents or emergencies is essential. Be informed before you go and prepare group attendees when necessary. Train event staff to verify attendees’ identification before issuing that all-access pass.