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Checking in with security.

A LUXURY HOTEL without a good security program is hardly luxurious. How can a guest possibly feel relaxed and pampered if he or she does not feel safe? One aspect of any security program should be a plan for dealing with emergencies. Accidents and other unexpected events that create the need for medical attention are best handled by a highly trained and cohesive emergency response team (ERT).

Every hotel security person is aware of the need for an effective ERT, but that need is most acute in the large, full-service, urban hotels that are adjacent to high-crime areas. The emergencies to which hotel personnel must respond range from simple cuts and bruises to strokes, seizures, cardiac arrests, broken bones, and muscle and head injuries. Response is also required for fires, arrests, earthquakes, civil disturbances, and bomb threats.

Even though government ERTs are the best trained and best equipped, they can be delayed. Properly trained hotel employees can get to the scene of the emergency faster, providing the initial response. Such a prompt response keeps a situation from getting out of control, saving lives and property.

As taught in American Red Cross courses, an individual deprived of oxygen for four minutes, as might occur during cardiac arrest, can suffer brain damage, and excessive loss of blood can result in death, but a government response team may arrive too late to be of help. By providing the prompt response needed, a hotel's ERT provides guests with what they expect and deserve and protects the hotel from resultant liability claims and rising insurance rates.

Members. Being an ERT member is not considered by management to be a full-time job. Members have other jobs within the facility. Usually people are chosen to be part of an ERT for their knowledge of the building, understanding of how the mechanics of the building operate, authority within the corporate structure, specialized training, ability to make sound decisions during stressful situations, ability to communicate effectively and react quickly, and ease of notification.

When ERT members are being chosen, the security manager should remember that participants cannot respond if they cannot be reached. Members should be chosen from those employees who carry two-way radios or remote paging devices. Candidates usually include security officers, engineers and maintenance personnel, and front-office managers.

THE EMPLOYEES in these positions, by virtue of their regular duties, possess many of the qualities needed for the ERTs. Security officers, if they are not standing at a post, are always on the move. They walk the halls, perimeters, and service areas checking for fire hazards, safety hazards, burned out lights, and stairway and evacuation obstacles. They are familiar with the building and its emergency equipment. They have been instructed to be aware of potentially harmful situations, and their foremost responsibility is preventing harm to people and property. Security officers are naturals for ERT assignment.

Engineers and maintenance employees are trained in fire suppression techniques and are designated fire control and prevention personnel. They are familiar with alarm systems, including smoke detectors; sprinkler flow switches; detectors in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; and pull stations. They maintain and operate emergency generators and know where the building's hidden recesses lead.

Front-office managers are often left with the responsibility of overall hotel operations, especially during off-peak hours. They are given the authority to make decisions and exercise veto power over the more specialized departments of security and engineering. As a part of their formal position training, they are made aware of the building's physical layout. Front-office managers are afforded the authority needed to act during an emergency. In some hotels, the front-office manager's office is located close to the fire command control panel, which is where essential fire-fighting equipment is kept, including the public address system.

Authority. Although the front-office manager has authority over security and maintenance, the ERT member who arrives on the scene of an emergency first is afforded decision-making authority for that emergency. This saves time. For example, when the first ERT member arrives on the scene of an accident involving a cut finger, he or she can assess the needs of the guest and decide on the spot whether 911 should be called. The telephone or command center operator can then telephone 911 if ordered to do so. The front-office manager may not be able to get to the scene in time to make that decision, so he or she must trust the ERT member's assessment.

In more urgent and life-threatening situations, such as civil disturbances, serious fires, earthquakes, or bomb threats, the ERT leader should consult with the front-office manager. A security officer who orders a full building evacuation is making a career decision. If the situation ultimately does not require a full evacuation, the inconvenience and undue alarm to the guests would be enormous. Of course, the security manager and hotel management will ultimately be held responsible for false evacuations, or worse, for a failure to evacuate when needed. The security manager should provide officers with clear guidelines and potential scenarios regarding procedures in such life-threatening situations. Typically, officers will be trained to allow the managing director or someone with more authority to make the evacuation decision. If there is no time for consultation, it would be reasonable for an ERT to evacuate or relocate guests that are in danger. The authority of an ERT member is dictated by the circumstances.

Training. All ERT members must be cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first-aid certified. If a lodging facility serves food and beverages, or even has food dispensing machines, there is a risk of choking; if the facility has a pool, rescue breathing may need to be performed. American Red Cross CPR courses cover these and other aspects of emergency first aid. Standard first-aid courses cover such additional medical emergencies as bleeding, shock, bums, fractures, sprains, eye and nose injuries, diabetic emergencies, strokes, and seizures. These medically accepted techniques, when properly implemented, can and do save lives.

All ERT members also must be trained in bloodborne pathogens exposure control techniques. (See sidebar) The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has asked businesses to comply with legal mandates pertaining to employees who may reasonably be expected to come into contact with blood or its by-products. The thrust of the standard is to protect employees from diseases such as hepatitis B and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In the hospitality industry this protection is expanded to include guests and patrons.

The blood produced from a guest's cut finger must be treated as an infectious substance. It is the responsibility of the ERT member to provide instructions regarding the proper procedures to the people who clean up the blood and those who bandage the cut.

Understanding the facility's smoke and fire alarm systems is a major part of the ERT member's training. How do alarms, sprinkler systems, elevators, smoke detectors, pull stations, HVAC systems, fire exits, and stairwells function in an emergency? ERT members must be familiar with emergency lighting and emergency generator systems.

Fire suppression is also the responsibility of ERTs. Training in the types and uses of fire extinguishers is essential. Nonprofessional fire fighters are not expected or required to combat an extensive or dangerous fire; however, many fire situations can be controlled if they are fought at their inception stages. After all, that is why fire extinguishers are provided at regular intervals throughout all buildings. Training is needed if ERTs are expected to use those extinguishers. It is a mistake to assume that everyone knows how to use this type of equipment, and its simple design belies its applicability in an emergency. Fear and urgency can and do cloud the thought process and result in unacceptable damage to property or people.

Fire hose cabinets contain additional fire suppression equipment. ERTs should be trained in the operation of the fire hoses, with emphasis on water damage. The water damage can exceed the damage incurred from the fire, so the decision to use a fire hose requires an informed decision maker. ERTs must be made aware of how the hoses are unfurled because if the water valve is turned on prior to unraveling, the water will not flow to the nozzle. The furled hose will stop the water at its first bend.

Emergency rescue must also be taught. A fundamental understanding of the mechanics of fire and smoke and their dangers is vital. If an ERT member must enter a smoke-filled room, adequate precautions should be taken. Feeling the outside of the door with the back of the hand can help determine the extent of the fire within. If the door is hot but opened anyway, the subsequent explosion can kill and will aid the fire in its quest for oxygen and fuel. When a door is opened and the fire gets fresh air, it can grow exponentially. Also, smoke rises, so ERTs must be taught to crawl into a smoke-filled room.

Procedures relating to relocation and evacuation of guests are a required part of ERT training. These procedures can be implemented during fires, earthquakes, bomb threats, or civil disturbances. A detailed knowledge of the building's emergency exits and rallying areas is required. This detailed knowledge of the building's layout is crucial when an ERT member is asked to escort the police or fire department to the scene of an emergency.

The rule of thumb for floor relocations is four floors above or four floors below the fire floor. ERT leaders must coordinate with the local fire department to identify which stairwells are safest and will cause the fire fighters the least amount of resistance when responding. In San Francisco, because the many different languages spoken by residents and visitors would make it difficult to communicate floor relocations to all of the guests over a public address system, local ordinances require the complete evacuation of hotels; guest relocation to a different floor is not a consideration.

ERT members must also learn when and how to make an arrest. If conducted incorrectly, an arrest can result in expensive and time-consuming consequences. Some of the crimes that plague lodging facilities include defrauding an innkeeper, check and credit card fraud, forgeries, and impersonations. For urban properties, crimes such as trespassing, opportunistic theft, prostitution, and public disturbance are also common.

Some facilities have problems that are geographically specific. San Francisco, for example, recently enacted a city ordinance addressing the problem of aggressive panhandling. Any such ordinances should be discussed during training.

An arrest should typically not be made until an investigation has been conducted and the investigator is reasonably convinced that the party is guilty. If the guest left the hotel and the vicinity without paying, that is acceptable proof Unfortunately, by that time the damage has been done, and the arrest must be made by law enforcement personnel away from the property. If, however, the suspect is observed leaving and stopped prior to departing, he or she can legally be detained for reasonable suspicion of fraud.

After the guest is told that he or she is responsible for the charges incurred, he or she should be given the opportunity to pay the balance due on the account, even if it means accepting a personal check. Should the guest fail to arrange some sort of payment, then the intent to defraud can be proven and the guest arrested.

In California, contract security officers must be licensed and successfully pass a written test that focuses on the classifications of various crimes and the power of the security officer to make a lawful arrest. The powers of arrest course provides a good foundation for ERT training.

ERTs must be taught that by handcuffing someone, they are depriving him or her of civil rights. The justice system frowns on citizens violating the constitutional rights of other citizens without just cause. The arresting citizen is required by the police and the courts to prove that a crime has been committed and that the arrestee was the one who committed it. If it is later determined that the arrested citizen was unlawfully deprived of his or her freedom and that a crime had not been committed or the wrong person was detained, the employee and employer may be held criminally or civilly liable.

Training of ERTs can be accomplished in two ways: individually and as a team. Courses such as standard first aid and CPR can be taken at any American Red Cross facility. Training on bloodborne pathogens and OSHA standards must be provided by the employer. If an employee is a certified instructor in any of these techniques, it may be less expensive and less time consuming to conduct the training sessions in-house.

Knowledge of the building can be gained simply by walking through it. During walk-throughs, fire emergency equipment and alarms situated in corridors, hallways, closets, and hidden locations must be pointed out. Which areas have sprinklers? Which elevator lobbies have smoke detectors that send the elevators to home landings on activation? Where are the fire hose cabinets, the fire extinguishers, and the pull stations? Fortunately, in many hotels the emergency fire equipment is located in the same place on each room floor and finding them is not a problem.

As part of their training, ERT members must learn to work with one another and function as a unit. The organization of the ERT is the responsibility of the security manager who designates team members and appoints a team leader. The team leader is responsible for the construction of a cohesive unit in which each individual performs a specific task. The members should be cross trained, however, so that they can cover for each other.

Consider the following example: The front-office agent is called and told that a guest is having difficulty breathing and chest pain. The agent transfers the call to the security command center. The center operator dispatches the medical emergency to the on-duty ERT with all pertinent details. The ERT leader realizes that this is a potential cardiac arrest in progress and knows what equipment may be needed at the scene and who else must be notified.

The ERT leader assigns one member to obtain a first-aid bag and an oxygen bottle before responding to the room and assigns an assistant to respond to the room with the leader immediately. On arrival, the leader and assistant assess the severity of the medical complaint. Is the guest conscious and coherent? Is the pain severe? Are there any additional concerns to take into account before making the decision to telephone 911 or making arrangements for transportation to a medical facility?

If the guest is in cardiac arrest, the leader and assistant should begin CPR procedures, 911 should be notified by the command center, and another ERT member can be designated as an escort for the arriving paramedics. Time is of the essence in this case. All ERT members have a task to perform and when conducted in a coordinated manner the quickest and best service is being provided to the guest.

At hotels where emergency services are taken seriously, mock training sessions that allow ERT members to respond to such situations are practiced. Most facilities also require monthly fire drills. The ERT leader should use those drills to train his or her team. Special training sessions should also be held during slow activity or low occupancy times. There are no valid reasons why training cannot be incorporated into monthly operations. Since the lodging industry provides service twenty-four hours a day, ERT personnel will work in shifts, all of which must be trained.

In the hospitality industry service provided to guests is of paramount importance. Quality service extends beyond a color television set and clean sheets to a reasonable expectation of security. Although preventive measures help keep the hotel secure, disasters and accidents where loss of life, injury, and property damage occur cannot always be prevented. By developing and documenting an ERT program, the facility will be in a more favorable position to protect patrons who stay at the hotel and to prove that it prepared for such situations if challenged in court.

Kevin E. Aiken, CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner), is the exposure control officer for the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:hotel security programs
Author:Aiken, Kevin E.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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