With concern about event security running high-especially as the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks nears-planners should make sure the hotels they book have taken steps to ratchet up security.
Hospitality-industry experts say that while hotels are limited in what they can do to provide total security, the best ones are investing in training programs to enhance employee awareness. They say these are the properties planners should do business with if meeting attendees are to feel secure in their lodgings.
Ray Ellis, a veteran hotel-security expert and professor of loss prevention management at the University of Houston's Conrad N. Hilton College, says hotels should be training their employees-especially in-room staff, such as housekeeping, maintenance and room-service workers-to keep an eye out for suspicious-looking objects in guest rooms, and know how and to whom to report them.
"Many hotels have hired extra security guards since September 11, and that's a good thing, but you have to remember that they only see the lobby and corridors," he says. "I think the way to go is to make sure in-room staff are trained to report suspicious objects found in guest rooms."
Fred Prassack, director of security and safety at the Peabdy Orlando, says meeting planners have expressed concern about hotel security and that his hotel has implemented a training program like the one Ellis advocates.
"When we train our staff, we tell them that we'd rather respond to 100 false alarms than miss one that might be a problem," he says. "Now when they see a piece of luggage left in the lobby or a hallway, they report it to security, where they used to just take it to lost-and-found."
Prassack also urges planners to make sure the hotel they book has installed closed-circuit TV systems and has established a close relationship with local law-enforcement agencies.