Federal Authorities Warn of Terrorism: Three Steps Toward Comprehensive Risk Management for the Hotel Industry
Quality service, prime amenities, ideal locations and excellent accommodations are the repertoire of successful hotels. In light of a recent warning issued by federal authorities to the U.S. hotel industry, that checklist may need to expand, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute. Though Mumbai-style attacks have thankfully not come to fruition on American soil in recent years, the need for vigilance is ever-present. Based on intelligence reports gathered by the U.S. government, terror plots on the hotel industry are a looming threat; however, a panic-free plan for potentially devastating crises can easily be developed.
Attacks of terrorism and natural disasters can often share the same elements of surprise, chaos, structural destruction and health-related concerns. Just as hotels should plan for before, during, and after a storm (more details), there should be a similarly structured program for staff and guests when dealing with terrorist attacks. Combining the consideration of both events can streamline the process of training employees and increasing familiarity with risk management in the aftermath of such events. Some considerations are as follows:
• Lobbies tend to be the most dangerous part of hotels because they are typically unsecured open areas where guests congregate. If finances permit, have plain clothed security personnel in the lobby. The presence of uniformed security guards can create a perception of safety; however, non-uniformed guards can be more attuned as the eyes and ears of hotel security.
• Staff should be trained to spot potentially dangerous activities. All employees who may have contact with guests, including housekeeping, maintenance, front desk, guest services, food and beverage, transportation, and parking should be given detailed instructions on what types of activity should be reported to hotel security.
• Staff should also have equally detailed instructions on panic control and ways to manage the turmoil of natural disasters.
• Record keeping is also vital, especially with health related issues. Knowing which employees have medical ailments or potential concerns will help reduce health risks stemming from natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Though some guests may not want to disclose such information, consider asking guests whether they have any heart conditions, diabetes or other issues that would be necessary for the staff to know in case of an emergency. Such inquiries should be phrased “as non-intrusive” inquiries geared toward providing the best possible customer care and service in the rare chance that something may happen.
• Keeping both paper and electronic copies of records, including which guests are checked into the hotel at any given time, is also key to minimizing confusion and chaos when responding to an emergency.
• Develop specific evacuation plans. The standard “in-case-of-a-fire” evacuation route may not be helpful during a chemical weapon attack, bombing or hurricane.
• Have designated evacuation areas equipped (or readily able to be equipped) with vital supplies. Back up energy sources, medical supplies and non-perishable foods, and bottled waters are all necessary to keep guests safe and calm.
• Make the evacuation routes easy to follow, and ensure that the staff knows exactly where guests should be located during the different emergencies.
Being vigilant, heightening security efforts, and ensuring staff preparedness will help reduce the stress, commotion and devastating aftermath of natural disasters and terrorist related incidents.
* Tara L. Tedrow is co-author of this article. She is a rising third year law student and has not been admitted to the Florida Bar.
To read the press release issued by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, please click on the following : AHLEI PR_TerrorWarningReinforcesNeedVigilanceTraining.pdf