A safer experience: Hotel security tools being shared with local first responders

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by Kevin Oldenburg, RealView, LLC

Hotel and security industries have been striving to develop new protocols that prevent against crisis situations like mass shootings. Of all the tools hotel management have, it is critical the tools that help save lives are shared with local first responders.

Beyond ensuring lives and properties are saved during an active crisis situation, property owners can face lingering legal issues rooted in readiness and emergency response – or lack thereof. More than 450 lawsuits have been filed in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy; that equals years of pain and frustration on all sides of the proceedings.

Many of the quick-fix ideas center on providing training for hotel staff and hiring additional security personnel. There are plentiful stories of much more intrusive security procedures in countries such as India, Indonesia and Israel, where hotels have been targeted in bombings. Some hotels are looking at measures such as scanning guests with metal detectors and putting bags through X-ray machines.

Although Americans have become used to the intense security at airports, industry thinking shows consumers aren’t keen on hotels turning into airports. After all, the hospitality business is supposed to be hospitable.

One of the challenges hotels face that most other facilities don’t is the feeling of privacy and relaxation consumers want from hotels. Tech innovations like mobile phone room keys, AI concierges, and remote check in/out are pluses for everyone. But while they make the guest’s experience smoother, the lack of engagement cuts down on the time that customers spend interacting with staff. That means fewer chances for staff to pick up on crucial red flags.

But what about other tech and tools that aren’t so visible? The idea of installing additional, more flexible surveillance cameras is an option. On top of that, it doesn’t add any stress to the current customer experience. The issue that arises is how to make that kind of tech a resource shareable to first responders.

Results from a 2014 Advisen Insurance survey showed disaster response/business continuity (BCP) plans as a primary concern for the hotel industry (87 percent). It dwarfed hacked door locks (27 percent), actively monitored surveillance systems (36 percent), and cyber liability insurance as part of their privacy and data (67 percent). Terrorist acts – foreign or domestic – have leaped to the top of the crisis pile throughout the industry.

Emergency response drills have used scenarios that include bomb threats, but now they are surely including active shooters. And when drills are conducted, hotel management should leverage all tools and technologies available to practice in real time.

A key tool in efficient and knowledgeable emergency response is a highly-detailed pre-plan. Pre-plan programs are a complete summary of the critical building and property information required by first responders so they can react with knowledge. This includes site plans, floor plans, hazardous material details, utility shut-off locations, geographical maps, fire hydrants locations, and other critical building and infrastructure information.

To make it shareable with first responders, hotel and convention properties should adopt an all-digital program that is operable both on- and off-line. Along with highly-detailed grounds and facility characteristics, technology can actually share security camera video. Police and firefighters can receive real time visuals, making them knowledgeable before they even arrive on site. No longer are first responders fighting through binders of paper pre-plans, they are swiping through a touch screen database of property information en route or via a monitor on site. This can drastically improve the odds of saving lives and property.

Hotels will continue to incorporate new tools, training, and technology. But getting as much information into the hands of first responders is critical to making the experience safer for everyone.

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