There are two criteria for selecting a secure hotel: electronic
locks and good key control. Unfortunately, there is no way to find
out about these features without calling the hotel directly. What
this means in terms of threat analysis is that the number one security
issue is controlling who has access to a guestís hotel room. While
a hotel can install electronic locks and establish a rigorous protocol
for key control, itís still a public place and is susceptible to
criminals. Unfortunately, itís the guests themselves who donít exercise
caution by failing to lock their door when they go for ice at the
end of the hall or open their door to an uninvited intruder.
As a measure of both convenience and security, call the hotel
directly before you begin your trip to confirm your reservations,
to arrange for such special needs as wheelchair access, or to help
with large amounts of luggage. You can also ask about cab fare and
shuttle services from the airport, and directions to the hotel.
If noise at night is a concern you might want to request a room
away from an ice dispenser, vending machine area, and elevator.
Standard Safety Practices for a Hotel Guest
When you first enter your hotel room, leave the door open and
check to see that no one is in the bathroom or under the bed. If
family or associates are with you, have them stay in the doorway
while you check the room.
When you are in your room, lock the door, attach the chain, and
use the peephole to identify any person who knocks at your door.
Do not open your door for unexpected callers, and phone the front
desk to verify that someone claiming to be making an unexpected
service call is on the hotel staff.
If you order food to be delivered from outside the hotel, the
most secure procedure is to accept and pay for the delivery in the
lobby. If you instruct the front desk to permit outside delivery
to your room, the delivery person will know your name and room number
and after the delivery is made, whether you are alone or with others.
It is unwise for any traveler, especially a woman, to share that
knowledge with an outsider.
Be careful about what leftovers you place outside your door.
If there is a single drinking cup with lipstick markings and the
remnants from a single meal, passers-by can make judgments about
the vulnerability of the roomís occupant.
When you are sleeping, be sure to use your deadbolt and chain
locks and assure that no access to your room is possible through
a window. You may also wish to carry with you one of a number of
intruder alarms that also double as smoke detectors.
Do not leave valuables in your room when you are absent. Use
the hotel safe. Professional thieves and hotel staff have seen every
hiding place for valuables that you can imagine, including hollowed-out
books and dummy shaving containers.
When you are not in your room, you should leave every indication
to a passerby that your room is occupied. Your light should be left
on, the television should be audible, and except at the hours when
you want cleaning staff to clean your room, put the DO NOT DISTURB
sign on your doorknob.
If you leave your room to use a swimming pool or fitness room,
be careful about where you keep your key or key card. Do not leave
it visible among your belongings at poolside. Ideally, leave it
at the front desk and retrieve it when you return to your room.
Smoke and Fire
In a low-rise hotel, ease of access and exit by several routes
provides assurance of escape in the event of fire. Even so, one
of the first measures you should take is to count the number of
doorways from your hotel room to the stairwell, so that in the dark
of night, in the midst of smoke and ringing fire alarm, you can
count the doors and crawl to that stairwell door to escape. Put
your key or key card and glasses beside your bed so that in an emergency
you can find them quickly. If you leave your room in such an emergency,
take your key card - you might have to retreat and re-enter your
In a high rise building, escape from fire and smoke may be more
complicated. Again, you should memorize the number of doorways to
the fire-escape stairwell, and walk down the stairwell so you will
know if there are any unexpected traffic patterns at a mezzanine
floor or arriving at the ground floor. This pattern should also
be memorized in case all is dark and smoky and others around you
are in a panic.
Most hotels have bedside instructions about what to do in case
of fire - read them. They may save your life. Here again, an intruder
alarm that doubles as a smoke detector, often with an emergency
flashlight, is invaluable.
If you see smoke or fire in the hotel, call 911 first to get
the fire department, then call the front desk.
For more safety and advisory information for traveling in the
U.S. and/or abroad, see
Personal Security While Traveling in the U.S.
here) and Advance
Planning - Key To A Safe Trip Abroad
The information in this brochure is provided
by Peter V. Savage, author of The Safe
Travel Book, (available at 800-462-6420 or 888-499-7277.)
Savage has over 20 years experience as an international security
consultant. His articles appear regularly in
"Bottom Line: Personal", and he
has written for "Travel Executive", "The
Business Traveler", "Travel One", and various other travel
and security publications. He has appeared on both the
"Oprah Winfrey" and
"Geraldo" shows, and regularly
appears on CNN when travel security
is affected. Savage is currently active as a security counselor
and principal in Passport Health, Inc., a travel medicine clinic
with offices nationwide.
The information provided is purely advisory in
nature. While the information is valuable, it is not comprehensive.
We can point you in the right direction, but we highly recommend
that you take the time to make the calls and conduct research carefully
to make your trip a safe and smooth one.