By Terrell Kemp, Jr., CHA
Consistency in the hotel business is key. Hotels operate and build large brands off of the idea that they can be consistent in every aspect when delivering a guest experience. One way that hotels express this consistency is through the policies and procedures they utilize for maintaining guest security. Most hotels have their own policies and procedures in place regarding the safety and security of hotel guests.
Regardless of the differences in the way we handle hotel security, it is critical that all employees are well-trained on their company’s policies for maintaining a safe environment. While established policies help, being able to carry out the plan on a daily basis can sometimes be the struggle. One way to effectively manage these challenges is through constant and effective training for employees.
Training employees can be a lengthy and costly process. Between the cost of training and the need to fill a position in a short amount of time, sometimes items such as basic safety training can be skipped during the on-boarding process for a new employee. This information is critical to the success of not only the hotel but also the safety of all guests and the employee while working on-site. Including information on hotel building security, emergency evacuation plans, hotel door lock systems training, and procedures on protecting guest information should be a priority of employee training. Spending time confirming these basic safety plans can save hotel management executives a great deal of time and headaches in the future.
When you begin your training for new hires, it is important to take into account the safety features of your building and what areas are deemed most important for staff training. For instance, many newer hotels are equipped with advanced lock systems that prohibit hacking and, overall, protect guestroom doors better than older systems can. Being sure that hotel staff is properly trained on how to maintain these locks and protect against manipulation is very important.
Hotels can also take precautions to protect guests during overnight hours by locking side entrances and in some cases even the main entrances and only allowing access to the building to current guests with a key card or those looking to book for that night. Some guests will hold doors open for periods of time — maybe to run to their vehicle for items — and leave the door unlatched. This creates a security breach, and it’s something that employees should recognize. One way to combat this is to have staff regularly check entrances and exits to secure doors frequently, especially overnight. Another way to handle this is to have facility entrances and exits programmed to send signals through the door lock system in the event a door has been held open for a period of time. An employee can respond to that area quickly to secure the door and prevent any unauthorized persons from entering.
The geographical location of a hotel is an important factor that must be taken into account when creating safety and emergency plans. For instance, facilities should consider preparedness for extreme weather. Some hotels even participate in FEMA programs to help displaced local residents. These emergency plans should be posted clearly for hotel staff to see and have easy access to in the event of an emergency. Proper training and knowledge of these plans will provide an employee with a sense of confidence on how to react to a serious situation.
How to handle guests’ personal information is another area hotel management should train their staff on. A breach can create serious safety concerns for a hotelier, and the guests of course. We have all heard horror stories of how guests have been checked into rooms with other guests already in them because of a registration mistake at the front desk. Ensuring that the front desk staff in a hotel verifies the identity of guests is crucial. For example, if a guest were to request another key for their room and the front desk agent failed to ask for the ID of the guest a verify it to the hotel’s registration, they could send a guest to the wrong room. Many times frequent travelers forget their room numbers and they may ask for a key for an incorrect room number. This type of security breach could make the hotel liable for lost or stolen items by permitting this unauthorized access to another guest’s room. All of these situations can be avoided by simply asking a guest to see their ID.
Getting employees to understand why we follow certain procedures is not always easy. For example it is a longstanding policy in hotels to never mention the room number you are checking a guest into during the check-in process. The reason for this is because you do not want anyone in the vicinity to hear where a guest is being checked into. This can create another breach of guest information security and is a common mistake by new hoteliers.
Our goal as hotel leaders is to provide a safe and relaxing home away from home for our guests. Instilling these policies for maintaining a safe environment for guests is very important. A review of procedures during staff meetings is always a great time to get everyone involved in the process. It has been my experience that some of the best ways to find out potential security issues have been by simply asking the staff what issues they see while completing their daily tasks. You would be surprised at the potential risks that you can stop and prevent by invoking the assistance of the entire team. Safety is everyone’s job, and management should take an active role daily in coaching employees and promoting a safe environment in their hotel properties.
Kemp is the general manager for Cobblestone Hotel and Suites™ in Orrville, OH. In March 2017, he opened the first Ohio location for the Cobblestone Hotels™ brand. Becoming a full-time college student at age 14, he entered the University of Akron’s “Akron Early College High School”, and graduated from the program with honors. Beginning his career in the hotel industry in 2010, he has held many titles in hotel operations. In 2013, Kemp accepted his first assistant general manager position at age 17 and first general manager position at age 18. At the age of 21, he became the youngest property support manager for a North Dakota-based hospitality group, where he supported the operations teams of 15 hotels throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania. In 2016, Kemp received the Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA) title. He currently operates as the youngest General Manager for Cobblestone Hotels™ under the direction of a Wisconsin-based management company, WHG Companies, LLC.