Lifesaver: The Value of Safety and Emergency Preparedness Training for Hotel Staff

By John Welty Practice Leader, SUITELIFE, Venture Insurance Programs | September 02, 2018

The hotel industry is no stranger to emergency situations. From active shooters and terrorist attacks, to weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes, hotels often play host to a variety of unwelcome events that can endanger guests and employees and wreak havoc on operations, facilities and reputations. Though these events occur without warning, that doesn't necessarily mean hotel owners and their staff have to face these situations unprepared.

Proper training and a good emergency preparedness plan can be literally a lifesaver in navigating a crisis situation. Too often, when there is an emergency, fear takes over and people don't know how to react or forget how to respond appropriately. Having well-trained employees and a plan in place for before, during and after an emergency, and testing that plan frequently can ensure that employees are better prepared when faced with such an event.

Whether its removing potential projectiles from the hotel's pool decks before a hurricane's high winds or performing CPR on a guest immediately after a pool accident, regular appropriate staff training can influence positive outcomes. However, key to that phrase is the word "appropriate." Staff training must be done right and in many cases, the best way to make sure individuals are trained correctly in emergency preparedness is to work with outside vendors with specific areas of expertise when it comes to safety.

Consider the horrific event that happened at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas last year. Tragically, 57 people were killed and 500 injured by an active shooter, but employees who had emergency training stayed on task and helped bring the situation to an end before gunman Stephen Paddock could do even more damage. In this case, it was an unarmed security guard, Jesus Campos, who was able to think on his feet during the crisis. He traced the sounds of gunfire to Paddock's floor and provided police with key passes to enter doorways, according to the Huffington Post.

Although this is an extreme situation, this story demonstrates the importance of an employee being able to navigate an emergency situation and respond appropriately. Hotels need to have safety preparedness plans in place whether they are designed to address an extreme event like an active shooter or on a smaller scale, a guest accident. Risk management experts and leaders in emergency preparedness like the American Red Cross can help hoteliers get their staffs prepared to handle a variety of emergency situations.

Training for the Unthinkable

It's hard to imagine that an event like the Las Vegas massacre could ever happen to anyone let alone to our own families or businesses. Though rare, it can happen and it's something for which responsible business owners and hoteliers should prepare.

Much like our school administrators and staff are now prepared for active shooter situations, so should hotel staff. Hotels have an increased risk exposure, as they are open to the public, host events and pack in large crowds. To mitigate this risk, hotel owners can be proactive by increasing security, hardening facilities and adding screening devices among other things. Additionally, they can also focus their efforts on training staff. Hotel staff should be taught to recognize suspicious activity and report it – whether it's a guest leaving a do-not-disturb sign on a door for days on end or an odd pattern of guests coming and going. This training should apply to everyone under the hotel's roof from the executive team to the kitchen staff, housekeeping and maintenance crew. Additionally, staff should have frequent evacuation drills and meet-up locations designated to ensure employees are safe and accounted for.

Training an employee how to react in an unthinkable situation can help them save themselves and others.

Getting Disaster Ready

When it comes to natural disaster preparedness, the American Red Cross, a storied institution in the business of helping others since 1881, offers a wealth of information.

One of their first recommendations for preparing for an emergency is to put together an emergency preparedness kit. For hoteliers, this would mean gathering supplies staff might need in an emergency situation or natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado. This kit could contain food, water and medical supplies necessary for staff. It could also include a hand-crank radio, flashlights and battery packs.

Creating an emergency preparedness plan is also critical. For hoteliers, this could entail discussing with staff how to prepare for and respond to emergency situations and listing the emergency situations that could happen in their area. For example, hotels in some geographic areas will prepare for hurricanes and snowstorms, while others will prepare for wildfires and earthquakes. Once the threats have been determined, hotel operators should identify emergency responsibilities for each staff member in the plan they develop. After this is established, the hotel operators should regularly review the plan and conduct drills.

To complement these efforts, the American Red Cross offers emergency apps that allow individuals and businesses like hotels to track severe weather and emergency alerts. These apps would allow a hotel manager to input the hotel's location and access information on what to do before, during and after a disaster strikes. They also provide guidance for fires, water safety and other emergency situations, and are available in Spanish.

Finally, hotels looking to prepare for a natural disaster can contact the American Red Cross to obtain a "ready rating." For those in the program, the American Red Cross reviews five sections of preparedness including "commitment, knowledge of hazard vulnerability, emergency planning, plan implementation and community resiliency." This ready rating program provides a template for a business like a hotel to build or update its emergency preparedness plan and recommends ways to improve emergency preparedness including best practices, training programs, drills and certifications.

So, what are specific tips for hotel staff to keep in mind in the event of a disaster? Using a hurricane as an example, hotel staff can do a number of things before the storm to try to minimize damage and keep guests and employees safe. A checklist, often provided by or readily available from your specialty insurer, should include:

  • Monitor for hurricane warnings and watches.
  • Advise guests and encourage evacuation when necessary; assist in finding alternative accommodations.
  • Cancel reservations.
  • Secure loose objects outside, including tables, chairs etc.
  • Assist with transportation.
  • Release non-essential employees and those who live in evacuation zones or manufactured homes.
  • Shut down the facility, including the water, gas, main breaker etc.
  • Evacuate and protect critical systems and information.

Prepare, Prevent and Respond

While the American Red Cross offers excellent resources for preparing for disasters, it also offers training programs to help staff "prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies."

The American Red Cross recommends lifeguard training and offers certifications in CPR and AED. However, it also recommends the life-saving training for support staff near water facilities, including desk, maintenance and food personnel to assist in responding to breathing and cardiac emergencies. Additionally, they encourage lifeguards to take emergency medical response training continuing education. Hotel owners should consider these recommendations.

The American Red Cross is known particularly for its aquatics training and that can be critical for hotels with pools. The Aquatic Examiner Service provides guidance to properties with aquatic facilities to monitor and enhance lifeguard performance, as well as the overall safety of the pool. The program includes surprise visits and drills to reinforce life-saving skills and safety protocols. Other program features include an in-depth online training course to help supervisors and managers develop and maintain a safe aquatic environment.

Aside from aquatics safety, hotel managers should consider training certain staff to use automated external defribillators. In a cardiac arrest emergency, these devices can save lives by sending a charge to the heart. Again, the American Red Cross can provide this training and recommend AEDs for the hotels.

Identifying Quality Training Resources

Much like a concierge is trained in customer service and the bartender is trained to identify and properly handle alcohol-impaired guests, hotel staff should be well-trained in emergency preparedness, so they know to how to react appropriately to protect themselves, the guests and the business.

Finding qualified professionals to conduct this training is critical and can be difficult. Contacting a specialty insurer for recommended training resources is a good place to start. An insurer with contacts and relationships with experts like the American Red Cross is ideal as those established relationships can simplify the process and help hotel owners have staff appropriately trained in safety and preparedness correctly and quickly.

Mr. Welty John Welty is the practice leader for SUITELIFE, an all-lines insurance and risk program for upscale hotels and resort properties administered by Venture Insurance Programs. Venture is a national program administrator for select industries, including the hotel, hotel resort, hotel management and luxury boutiques industries. At Venture, Mr. Welty is responsible for managing SUITELIFE's underwriting team and maintaining the company's top-tier carrier relationships. He is responsible for pro-actively and strategically managing the retention and growth of the SUITELIFE through disciplined underwriting, managing program profitability, and program expansion and development. Mr. Welty oversees all aspects of the SUITELIFE program from underwriting, broker relationships, marketing, carrier relationships, employee growth opportunities, and client relationships to ensure a steady, profitable, and expanding program. Mr. Welty has worked in the insurance industry for more than 30 years, specializing in commercial risks. Prior to joining Venture, he was casualty manager for the Mid-Atlantic region of American International Group in Philadelphia for nine years. John Welty can be contacted at 800-282-6247 ext. 276 or JWelty@ventureprograms.com Please visit http://ventureprograms.com for more information. Extended Biography

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