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The hospitality of hotel security.

OWNERS AND GENERAL MANAGERS of lodging facilities, regardless of the property size, have a responsibility to ensure that guests are provided with safe and secure accommodations. No less important is the protection of the employees at each site, as well as the security of their personal property and, of course, the company's assets.

An annual review of security exposures provides a fresh look at potential problems and the procedures that may need to be implemented for effective protection. Proper evaluation requires information from many sources.

One resource is the police. Law enforcement agencies help businesses improve their protection by providing them with information concerning the number and types of crimes that occur in the area around the property and on the premises. They may even volunteer to inspect the hotel and provide recommendations for improvement.

Additional information about local crime conditions can be obtained from the newspaper and by meeting with the operators of other neighborhood businesses. Employees of the hotel who live in the area can provide further insights. A review of high-security protection at nearby properties, or the absence thereof, can indicate which defensive measures are considered appropriate for the location.

To determine on-site problems, the security manager has to examine the incident reports. It also helps to question employees, such as the front desk clerks, who have close contact with the guests and who would receive complaints. Incident reports and information tactfully gathered from guests provide a basis for evaluating procedures and implementing action.

A minisurvey of the property is the next step toward determining if a complete physical survey would be warranted. The security professional conducting the survey should begin with the street access to the property. Guests require a clear, well-defined, and well-illuminated route from the street to the hotel's guest entrance doors. All exterior lights should be checked on a daily basis for full illumination. Inoperative fixtures should be changed immediately upon discovery.

Heavy foliage reduces adequate exterior illumination in many instances and, therefore, should be trimmed. Perimeter barriers, such as fencing, need to be intact, and the ground needs to be firm and not eroded to prevent unauthorized ingress or the exodus of personal property or hotel assets, such as money or materials, that can be passed under the fence. During the late evening and early morning hours, securing remote driveway and pedestrian entrances is essential. Clear instructions about the nearest open entrance should be posted.

Foot patrols should check all exit doors. Those doors that should be secured in accordance with hotel instructions must be locked and have a panic bar on the inside for easy egress in an emergency. Entrances to employee work areas should have identifying signs prohibiting unauthorized entry. Directional signs to the elevators and exits should be highly visible. Access to the guest residence area of the hotel through the garage entrance should be controlled to deter trespassers.

Key control. Many hotels today still use metal or mechanical keys. These keys are more vulnerable to a breach in security, such as a loss or theft, than electronic keying systems, because electronic systems can be canceled or changed with a touch of a keyboard. Whatever the hotel's key arrangement, certain basic security measures are essential for safety.

When presenting any kind of key to a guest, the clerk should not announce the room number because it may be overheard by others nearby. Instead, he or she should use envelopes for the keys and point to the room number placed on the envelope for the guest to read.

Hotels are starting to convert from placing room numbers on keys to coded numbers and letters. The actual room number is put on the key envelope or, in some cases, on the guest's copy of the registration receipt. Should the key be lost or misplaced, it can only be identified by the key custodian or the front desk. Under no circumstances should guest room numbers be given out. Telephone calls can be connected to the room without divulging the location, and individuals can be directed to a house phone through which the operator or front desk will contact a guest for a visitor.

Guest room key accountability is not easy but can be made less difficult if the hotel engineer, the housekeeper, and the front desk manager work as a team and follow set procedures. The front desk manager should keep an inventory of the number of room keys maintained at the front desk. When the established supply for a room is almost depleted, the engineer should change the door lock, retrieve the remaining room keys, and provide a set number of keys for the new lock. Additional duplicate keys should not be made in lieu of changing the lock.

When checking out at the front desk, guests should be asked for their room key. If they are returning to their room, they should be instructed to leave the key on the dresser. Guests, in a hurry to leave the hotel with all their belongings, will consider returning the key a low priority and will probably take it home and throw it away.

When it is time to clean the room; the key should be picked up by the maid and put into a locked key box affixed to the cleaning cart for security. The housekeeping supervisor should collect all keys from key boxes by 1:00 p.m. and return them promptly to the front desk. This gives the desk clerks time to restore the keys in their slots before the afternoon rush of new guests. With the three departments cooperating, loss of keys can be reduced and security for guests increased. If department managers secure their keys in a locked hotel cabinet at the end of their shift, the chance of loss is minimized, and asset security is maintained.

A key custody log should be implemented. Usually the manager on duty or a designated person will have access to the secured keys in an emergency, and keys in use will be logged out.

Safe deposit boxes must be available when requested by guests; a hotel attendant should ensure that the boxes are otherwise properly stored and locked in a vault. Having only one guest key to access each safe deposit box, coupled with the guest's written agreement to bear the cost of removing the safe deposit lock if the key is lost, should be considered. The master or guard safe deposit key should be secured by the designated custodian, with monitored controlled access.

Cashier area. Guests should not have access into the cashier's area at any time. The entrances from the public area into the administration offices should be monitored during normal business hours by a receptionist. If this is not feasible, the access door should be equipped with a programmable combination lock, and the combination should be given to employees on a need-to-know basis.

Where possible, cashiers should have individual banks and retain their access key, with a duplicate held in the controller's safe. Unscheduled bank audits should be carried out by the controller with one witness. Each cashier should close out in privacy in the office at the end of his or her shift. Cashiers, with their bank, should be escorted by security from their station at the front desk to the office counting area. When each cashier's closeout is complete, the drop into the drop safe should be witnessed and certified in the deposit drop log. Dual access to the drop deposit with two keys or a combination and key is recommended.

When the hotel's daily deposit is being prepared, it is best done in a locked, private area with no visitors. The completed deposit should be stored in a locked safe, not a locked desk drawer, until an armored car service or management representative is ready to take it to the bank. When a representative is handling the bank deposit, routes and hours should be varied and a second person should accompany the representative making the deposit. Nothing identifying them with the hotel should be used.

Lobby. Some hotels have a magnetic locking bar or electric strike latch installed on the main entrance door from the vestibule to the lobby during late evening and early morning hours. This allows egress but secures the doors from ingress. This should be supplemented with a two-way voice communication system between the vestibule and the front desk, accompanied by a buzzer visitors can use to summon the clerk when no one is at the front desk. If the potential guest in the vestibule cannot be seen from the front desk, CCTV is necessary. The door lock should be controlled by a switch at the front desk.

Guests. People tend to deviate from their normal protective guidelines when at a hotel. To remind guests to be aware of security measures, many hotels place a tastefully worded notice in each guest room in a highly visible location, such as on the bed, dresser, desk, or door. Some recommendations to consider include the following:

* Park your car in a well-lighted, visible area of the parking lot or garage.

* Do not leave any valuables in the car in a visible location.

* When checking in or departing, keep luggage in your personal possession or with the bellhop.

* Keep room keys in your possession at all times. If the key is lost, notify security and the front desk so that the lock can be changed promptly.

* Be wary of friendly strangers, especially those who display great interest in the room number.

* Engage the dead bolt and chain latch or bar provided on the entrance door when in the room. Do not leave the door ajar when leaving the room for ice, visiting a nearby room, or expecting a visitor.

* Before opening the door, use the peephole to identify the caller.

* Do not leave handbags, coats, or personal belongings unattended.

* When leaving the hotel on foot, ask a hotel employee about the safety of the area and whether it would be preferable to take public transportation. If in doubt, do not walk. Take a cab.

Security officers. A security officer should have successfully completed all training courses required by the state and local authorities and should be capable of performing all hotel security functions. Proof of past security experience is recommended, and appropriate background checks should be completed prior to hiring.

Although a security officer's basic knowledge may have been well established, to work effectively in a hotel requires additional training. Because of the presence of a high volume of people in a hotel, additional security responsibilities require tact and diplomacy.

Security officers must be alert to assist lost guests, those who display large sums of money in public, or those who attract attention to themselves in some other manner that could cause them to be victimized. Courteous and helpful guidance given to guests for their protection can resolve a problem before it materializes and ensure a continued pleasant stay in the hotel.

It is the duty of security officers at times to question persons in the hotel and on surrounding grounds. Officers must be tactful to obtain the desired information without offending the guest.

Security patrols of the hotel property should include all interior and exterior areas, not just the buildings, parking areas, storage, receiving, and trash disposal locations. Every guest room door should be passed to verify that the doors are closed and no key is left in the lock or dropped on the floor. Listening for sounds of room smoke alarms is also essential.

Key security points throughout the facility should be identified, and checkpoints should be installed at every point to document the security officer's presence at hourly intervals. The route should be prepared to allow deviation from the path without missing any of the checkpoints. Variation of the routes as well as the hour patrolled is critical to avoid any pre-determined pattern.

Security reports and patrol logs should be reviewed daily by the general manager or the director of security. Hotel management staff and security staff should discuss policy and procedures at periodic meetings.

While lodging security professionals must always be alert to new technology that allows them to better fulfill their mission, it is also vital that they constantly evaluate the basic protective measures. These measures can be even more effective when all employees at the hotel have been trained and encouraged to practice security and safety awareness for the protection of the guests and themselves.

Thomas O. Ronan, CPP, CHA (Certified Hotel Administrator), is president of Ronan and Associates, Inc., in Memphis, Tennessee. Ronan is co-author of the Loss Prevention Manual and Security Officers' Guide, and author of General Managers' Security Instruction Book. He is a member of the ASIS Standing Committee on Lodging Security.
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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Author:Ronan, Thomas O.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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