It is important to run a hotel security program that doesn’t compromise customer service. Some hotels see this as a challenge because they think security and customer service are at odds. But the right tools and business practices actually help you do both well.
The business advisory firm Deloitte agrees that finding the right balance of customer service and security is essential for the long term sustainability of hotels. To help you get a complete picture of your hotel security program we’ve developed a top-to-bottom hotel safety and security checklist. It walks you through 12 major aspects of hotel security that you will want to evaluate.
Assessing how your hotel performs in each area will help you discover what is working well, what needs to be improved, and where you might be able to use new technology to give yourself an edge on the competition.
Securing your hotel's facilities requires a wide variety of protections including access control, vehicle security, key management, video surveillance, and building identification and accessibility.
1. Access Control
If you don’t already have an inventory of all locks in your venue, start creating one. Are there locks on all doors and windows? How about slide-and-chain bolts on guest room doors? Guest room inventories can be easily delegated to service staff as they turn over rooms or perform other tasks.
Are you tracking spare guest keys? Regardless of whether your hotel uses swipe cards, proximity cards, or hard keys, make sure you know how many spares you use each quarter. Then schedule reorders that keep you ahead of that rate.
You should also inventory and test locks on doors to all back-of-the-house spaces. Make sure that those doors are out of sight whenever possible. If staff aren’t considering the security implications, interior design changes can accidentally expose these doors.
2. Vehicle Security
Evaluate your guest parking facilities. Good lighting and sightlines are the best crime deterrents. Are all lights working? Have any trees or bushes grown to obstruct sightlines from building entrances?
Resorts and hotels with their own carts or vehicles need to evaluate their security as well. Are those vehicles and their keys secured when not in use? Can you accurately track who is using them? If you’ve had problems with these tasks in the past, fleet management software might be a good tool to implement as your fleet grows.
3. Key Management
There should be a mechanism for tracking and auditing all key usage. Are all back-of-the-house keys kept in a secure location? If lost or misplaced keys are a common problem at your hotel, consider whether an electronic key management system might be able to track keys more cost-effectively.
4. Video Surveillance
Your surveillance system is only as good as the footage that you can play back. Do you have a documented retention policy for camera footage? Do you have a mechanism to confirm that staff are actually following it? Make sure surveillance cameras are recording and that you can play back archived footage. Also, check coverage areas regularly, because landscaping or interior design changes might accidentally create new camera blind spots.
5. Building Identification and Accessibility
Make sure there is a clear line of sight from staffed locations, such as the reception desk, to each main entrance. Outside entrances should be well lit and clearly labeled so that guests are able to locate your facility when they’re unfamiliar with the area.
Keeping your guests and employees safe requires stringent security procedures and state-of-the-art technology. Three vital human protections include:
6. Duress Alert Systems (Panic Buttons)
Many cities and states have laws requiring hotels to provide duress alert buttons for service staff. Many other jurisdictions have similar legislation in the works. If you don’t yet have a duress alert system, take the time to investigate what might be the most effective way to implement one in your venue. The costs and features of these systems can vary widely, so planning now could save you money and effort later on.
If you already have a duress alert system, schedule periodic drills to ensure that it is working properly and give staff an opportunity to practice responding to an alarm. Also, decide whether it makes sense for your venue to have policies for documenting expected response times and handling potential misuse.
7. Security Staffing
Consider whether your current security staffing will provide adequate coverage for the next five years. If you don’t have any staff now, would it make sense to work with a security contractor or to hire in-house? If you have security staff, make sure you have an ongoing process in place to ensure that they’re properly licensed and registered. This could mean asking your contract agency for annual reports or running your own checks for in-house staff.
Regardless of your staffing arrangement, you need policies detailing how you want staff to handle sensitive situations that might arise in your venue. Periodically review whether you have all relevant situations covered. They could include:
- Handling unattended vehicles
- Responding to trespassers
- Handling suspicious packages
- Using force
Policies will guide staff behavior, allowing you to better manage guest experiences and reduce liability for wrongful actions. Conduct annual security training on all policies and security checklists (including this one).
8. Evacuation Procedures
Do you have a documented emergency action plan (EAP)? Make sure it’s updated to reflect any recent changes in your hotel’s operations. In the U.S., OSHA requires an EAP for all businesses with more than 10 people on staff. To simplify this process, OSHA offers a useful EAP development app.
Even if you don’t yet need a documented EAP, you should build a summary of your evacuation plans into your hotel safety and security checklist. Has your venue’s floor plan changed in any way? Does this impact evacuation routes and any posted signage?
As for equipment, make sure smoke alarm testing is conducted annually. At larger hotels and especially resorts, it might also be worth considering whether an automated mustering system makes sense to record staff and guest locations during emergencies.
One of the most challenging aspects of hotel security is protecting both hotel and guest assets. Here are four protections you can put in place to keep valuables safe.
9. Phone and Mobile Device Security
Audit guest rooms and business phones in your hotel to confirm that emergency services are available on all of them. This is especially important if your hotel has recently changed telecom carriers or PBX systems, which can disrupt how dialing out works. Also, do you have a policy in place for staff to contact emergency services if phone lines are down?
Radios, mobile phones, and tablets are all now standard issue equipment. Is your current storage and management plan for them adequate? Are they always secured and available when not in use?
Larger hotels may benefit from deploying an intelligent asset management system. These systems are best suited for managing expensive equipment that needs consistent and reliable transaction logging, such as mobile devices for service staff.
10. Guest Asset Security
If you have safes in guest rooms, confirm that all work properly. This checklist item can be easily delegated to housekeeping staff as they turn over rooms.
Also, consider whether asset lockers might be useful for securing guest assets if your venue has a need for guests to deposit items at centrally managed locations, such as behind reception desks or at pools. Some locker systems offer electronics charging for better customer service.
11. High-Security Safes
Safes are a reliable choice for securing high-value assets that do not need to be signed in and out regularly. As part of your security review, confirm that your safes are functioning properly, physically secured, and out of the view of guests. Also, check whether the keys or access codes for your safes are properly stored.
12. Cash Handling Procedures
Cash collections from your front deck, restaurant, and other locations should happen on a varied schedule that is hard for thieves to track. Is your collection schedule too predictable? Confirm that cash counting is performed in a locked space away from guests. If you use a private cash management agency for transportation, make sure their license is up to date for the current year.
Better Security Creates a Better Guest Experience
Maintaining good security while scaling up your hotel’s operations can be challenging, but it is doable. Many hotels have found success in applying new intelligent security technology and policies to long-standing problems. Using our hotel safety and security checklist is a good way to identify what is working for you now and which problems might need new solutions to support your growth.
Check out Real Time Networks’ hotel industry page to learn more about intelligent security solutions that streamline your hotel’s operations.
About the Author
Shannon Arnold is the VP of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Real Time Networks.