Do you know what to look for before your group checks into a hotel?
Individuals participating in any kind of event, whether a small, regional meeting or an international incentive trip, have an expectation of a safe and secure experience. Planners have a responsibility to make sure those expectations are met.
Local laws or requirements in other countries may not be the same as those in the United States. For example, the Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act was enacted by Congress nearly 20 years ago. It states that federal government employees are generally not permitted to attend meetings or events in hotels or other venues that do not have hard-wired smoke detectors and automatic sprinkler systems.
In the years since the law was enacted, state and local building codes have been modified to mandate such protective devices in virtually all newly constructed or renovated buildings, though many planners still include a provision in their own hotel agreements requiring hotels to have such devices in good operating condition.
Hotels have not been so quick to install another type of protective device, the automated external defibrillator, which is mandated in many public buildings, such as airports. Many hotel lawyers worry about potential liability if an AED is not used properly. Nevertheless, it is a good idea for planners to contractually require a hotel or other venue to have at least one AED in good working order, as well as at least one person trained in CPR techniques on site at all times. If a hotel refuses a request for such a provision, the company should consider CPR training for its employees and determine whether to bring its own portable AED on site.
As part of a site inspection or request for proposal, planners should consider asking about the availability of medical assistance as well as the location of the nearest hospital emergency room. Asking a bellman or front desk staffer at the time of an emergency may be too late.
Planners should consider collecting emergency contact information from attendees. Attendees, as well as sponsoring organization staff, should be encouraged to put emergency contact listings on their cell phones.
Especially when dealing with venues in other countries, planners should enquire about security plans and procedures for dealing with criminal or terrorist activity. While many hotels are reluctant to discuss security precautions, planners should press for information because such data will help determine whether the meeting sponsor needs to provide its own security.
Some planners submitthat require hotels to disclose any criminal incident involving injury or death to a hotel guest, or theft of personal property valued at more than $500, occurring in the six months prior to the meeting. Most hotels balk at disclosing such information, citing vague “privacy” concerns. But the information is important to a planner in mitigating the risk of being sued by an injured attendee for locating the meeting in a venue that the planner should have known (by asking appropriate questions) posed a security risk.
Depending on the nature of the meeting, its location, or the potential vulnerability of the attendees, it might be appropriate for planners to hire their own security personnel to provide an extra measure of protection. When contracting with such vendors, however, a planner should require that the security firm provide all appropriate licenses, possess at least $1 million in liability insurance, and use only properly trained personnel.