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Hotel Security

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 hotel room.

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.

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.