Hotels place emphasis on terror awareness training

Industry experts discuss how making employees, guests more aware can make hotels safer

"One of the most successful ways to counter terrorism is really to empower staff employees and people to be aware of their surroundings and to understand vulnerabilities and understand threats," he said. "What people know or what they don't know can have an impact on how things turn out."

As a way to boost awareness among hotel guests and employees, Cardinal Point Strategies has partnered with AH&LA to develop a new counter terrorism and safety training initiative called "Eye on Awareness - Hotel Security and Anti-Terrorism Training."

The program, which also complements the Department of Homeland Security's "See Something, Say Something" terrorism awareness campaign, features three tiers of training for hotel employees to help them recognize and report suspicious activity.

"What really distinguishes the Eye on Awareness training program from many others that are out there is that this is an interactive, engaging program," Goldenberg explained. "It is going to be on an LMS (learning management system), which means that the hoteliers will really have an opportunity to know who goes through it and when. It is really for the most important people in the hotel, which are frontline staff, those are the eyes and ears of each and every hotel."

Darrell Clifton, CPP, director of security for Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Reno, Nev., says that his facility has used a "See Something, Say Something" initiative for several years in an effort to make hotel staff and guests more aware.

"Whatever slogan you use, it's about getting your employees to be more aware of their surroundings," Clifton said. "Not being able to screen people like you would be able to in a closed facility, we have to welcome everyone in and make sure they are not going to be a threat to us. Our biggest concern would be something like an active shooter or the actions of an outsider we don't know about until it happens."

Training initiatives like these also help hotels meet that balance between security and guest experience.

"In the hospitality industry, we can't setup screening operations like the TSA can and I don't believe it is necessary as a routine business practice in the U.S." Sanna said. "We really try to create a safe environment that meets the guest's expectations for security with appropriate operational measures to cover a variety of risks/threats - from criminal incidents, to terrorist threats."

McInerney agreed.

"Each hotel has its own security protocols based upon the type of property it is and the types of guests they have," McInerney said. "It's very important for all the hotel companies to make sure the guest is taken care of and we meet this expectation because the last thing you want to do is have somebody leave the hotel with a bad experience because that person tells 10 people and those people tell 10 people."

In addition to terrorism, Sanna said that hotels are working to combat fraud, particularly computer hacking and attempts to gain access to personal information, which have become a big problem for the industry in recent years.

"We're obviously investing heavily in IT related security, but also we have implemented very stringent measures around data privacy protection and personal guest security. Practices as not disclosing the guest room numbers in public areas, installing auditable security technologies for door locks and other access control measures," Sanna said.

The inability to also physically harden the hotel itself against attacks emphasizes the need for awareness training for employees and utilization of surveillance and access control technologies, according to Clifton.

"We also do a little bit of intelligence work," Clifton added. "We work with our local authorities and our fusion centers and take any information where we can get it if there is a credible threat."

Sanna said that innovation in security technologies across the board have helped make the job of securing hotels an easier task. With the evolution of IP cameras, Sanna said that hotel security directors are no longer hampered by bandwidth issues and can even use cameras to supplement guard tours.