Public places are no longer immune from violent incidents. Several hotels have upped the security to keep their guests safe and to limit threats. A thorough and properly researched risk assessment has become par for the course. How can technology help keep hotels safe without security measures being “in your face”? asks Donald Gasper.

Ensuring a safe and secure environment for staff and guests is essential for any hotel and modern technology plays an absolutely crucial role here. The latest systems help to protect against physical threats. Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group has implemented a robust safety and security programme that is predominantly based on threat and risk analysis.

“Preparedness planning will ensure that key management can anticipate and handle serious issues, incidents and emergencies while in the spotlight, and should be developed in parallel to operational crisis planning,” says Andre de Jong, the group’s vice president, Operations, South East Asia & Pacific. De Jong refers to the TRICS formula. The acronym stands for:

  • Threat Assessment – what can have a negative impact on you?
  • Risk Mitigation – what can you do to lower or remove the threat?
  • Incident Response Capability – what do you do when a threat materialises?
  • Crisis Management, Communication and Continuity – what do you do when an incident is so large there is loss of life, disruption to operations or risk to the
    brand reputation?

“Our risk mitigation programme is based on an online self-assessment programme linked to a library of best practices,” the vice president explains. “It helps hotels document that they work systematically with safety and security throughout the year and gives them the opportunity to learn from the best practices amongst our 1, 400 global hotels.” For the guest, this is an example of the way technology assists behind the scenes to ensure a safe, secure and comfortable environment without being “in your face”.

“Technology has been an enabler to improve safety and security in hotels. That said, they must be well managed as part of the overall security initiative. Policies and procedures detailing data security, cybersecurity, emergency planning and response should be reinforced and reviewed regularly as well.”

Striking the right balance

Security measures must be discreet, however, and it is essential to strike the right balance between safety and intrusiveness. For Gregoir Chikaher, Global Hotels and Leisure Business Leader at engineering giant Arup, recent advances have enabled hotels to improve their systems without alarming customers.

“Security methods have become more technically advanced and, because of this, harder to breach,” he told HMI magazine recently. “Most hotels now allow guests to book online using credit cards, and, by doing so, can collect information to verify people as they check in.” CCTV, long-established as a basic safety measure, is also becoming increasingly sophisticated. “Systems have become much more proactive,” says Chikaher. “Cameras not only provide a level of general surveillance, but can also now detect items such as bags abandoned in public areas, provide automatic number plate recognition for pre-registered guests and employee vehicles, and detect when a person is in a sensitive area.”

“Visiting a hotel should be a leisurely experience, where guests can slow down and relax. They are not prisons, and therefore you can’t restrain people too much.”

Telephones, an emergency lifeline

“Telephones should be an important component of every hotel security plan,” says John Grubb, senior vice president in charge of marketing at Cetis Inc. “Hotel phones serve as an emergency lifeline for guests, whether the phones are installed in the guest room, lobby, common area or pool.”

In fact, a phone plugged into an RJ11/RJ14/RJ45 jack inside the guest room or common area is a more reliable guest emergency location device than a mobile phone, Grubb says. Why? “Because the traditional phone identifies the exact location of the guest for emergency responders, instead of just giving an estimate of location available with mobile network and Wi-Fi devices.”

Cetis offers a wide range of analogue and VoIP phones, including Red desk and wall emergency phones, feature phones equipped with full-length Red emergency faceplates and standard desk phones with programmable guest service keys. Dedicated emergency phones, as well as standard room phones equipped with dedicated SOS, or guest service keys may be programmed through the hotel PBX phone system to direct dial 911, or a selected emergency number located on the hotel property.

Future security policies will continue to rely heavily on emerging technology. “In developing the use of technology in hotel security, the balance between protection and providing the right hospitality experience will always be an integral factor,” says Chikhaer.