Excerpts from a white paper from HFTP, USA, that talks about preparing a hotel property for a hostile attack
After the recent November 2015 terror attacks in Paris hit near busy, entertainment venues: outside restaurants, bars and the soccer stadium, there has been a rise in concern about the security at hospitality venues. The attacks garnered worldwide publicity and comment, part of the strategy behind the string of terrorist attacks happening across the globe.
In addition, within the past couple of months hotels have been targeted for terrorist attacks with armed assaults. Why are hotels targeted? Hotels are considered soft targets that, when attacked, bring wide publicity. A 2009 report from Stratfor Global Intelligence wrote, “Hotels are the quintessential ‘soft targets.’ They have fixed locations and daily business activity that creates a perfect cover for preoperational surveillance. Extensive traffic — both human and vehicle — inside and outside the buildings still goes largely unregulated. This is especially true for larger hotels that incorporate bars, restaurants, clubs, shops, pools, gyms and other public facilities that cater to clientele besides the hotels’ own guests.”
So how does an industry that is required to offer a relaxed, discreet, unobtrusive and unencumbered experience for guests, reconcile those goals with offering guests a secure environment? Understanding that there is potential for danger, hospitality properties need to counter it with preemptive response planning. It is imperative for organisations to implement appropriate security measures, collaborate with local authorities and train staff in proper prevention and reaction methods. With the right planning a bad situation can be ameliorated.
There is no doubt that a security plan is necessary for any hospitality property. Even if the threat level in that area is low, as a high traffic public venue, the potential for a security emergency is likely. Every property, most likely, has a security plan in place already. If so, still consider the information below, because it could address situations that have not been considered or imagined.
To get started, have a physical security assessment conducted for the particular property. This includes an evaluation of the area’s crime levels and political stability, and whether your security system is sufficient to meet the potential threats for the region. Depending on the results of the assessment, management can determine what kind of resources need to be spent on for security and its support. If you are part of a larger hotel company, reach out to the corporate office to see what kind of assessment programme is available to you.
Based on the area’s threat level established by your security assessment, numerous physical and technological measures can be adopted. Some physical security measures include:
• Visible security
• Landscape barriers
• Protective window film/bullet proof glass
• Automatic locks
Investing in technology can also be a game changer. There are many monitoring products available that vary in cost. These systems use fingerprints, facial recognition, radio frequency identification (RFID) and web interfaces to track movement throughout the enterprise and also to limit access.
Regardless of the size of the operation, accessible Internet Protocol (IP) cameras are inexpensive and easy to set up and monitor.
The biggest defense arm in any security plan is the hotel staff. While one doesn’t want to scare the staff with outlandish scenarios, they do need to be informed of the potential dangers that exist. Educate them on ways a criminal or terrorist could use the facility as a base for illegal activities, how they can help prevent an attack and what their responsibilities are in an emergency scenario.
One important step towards prevention is for all staff to know what constitutes suspicious behaviour and be observant.
A big part of the hospitality business is hosting large groups for events. Such reservations come with advanced planning and an opportunity for the hotel to take an extra security step and vet the organisation or party. One can do this by researching the group; finding additional details as its history, purpose and recent activities. Also, during discussions with their representatives, one might consider having a conversation with them that covers more than event planning: asking if you’ve worked with them previously, or if additional security is needed and why.
Finally, if the group has a public Facebook page for the event, ask if the property can be a member of the group. These simple steps can often alert you to potential issues.
Monitoring for suspicious Activity
Staff should become the eyes and ears, and report suspicious activity to the security team. This includes when the person(s):
• Acts nervously and is overly concerned with privacy
• Denies hotel staff access to a room, or refuses room cleaning during an extended stay
• Insists on cash payment
• Attempts to gain access to restricted areas or talks his/her way in to private areas
• Conducts surveillance of the property, including:
Takes notes, pictures or videos of the hotel
Sits in a car outside and watches the comings and goings of the hotel
Walks around the vicinity of the hotel, noting the different entrances
Circles security and observes security technologies (i.e. cameras)
In addition to prevention, the worst case scenario must be planned for — develop a response plan. Response plans can be as unique as the enterprises that use them.