December 1, 2022

Spotter Up

In Depth Tactical Solutions

Aerial View of Las Vegas Strip at Night. Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Summer travel season is upon us and it looks to be the busiest ever.  According to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel in 2022 will be even busier than pre-pandemic times. The last thing that you want to worry about when you’re on vacation or a business trip is hotel security, but failing to do so may put a damper (or worse) on an otherwise amazing trip. While most top hotels and resorts have security programs in place to protect their guests, you still need to be vigilant about your personal security. Personal safety and security is ultimately your responsibility.

Most travelers tend to think of hotel rooms as home, but the harsh truth is that they can be a target of terrorism and crime. Fire is also a major concern. You need to know how to protect yourself and your family. Following a few simple safety tips will help keep you and your family safe and secure while away from home.

Before Leaving Home

Hotel safety starts long before you book a room. Do your homework. Look carefully at the safety and security situation in the country and/or city you’ll be visiting. Is terrorism a problem? Are tourists the target of crime? Are some areas and neighborhoods safer than others? These are all questions you need to ask and answer.

Acapulco Bay. Look carefully at the safety and security situation in the country and/or city you’ll be visiting. The U.S. Department of State advises U.S. citizens to NOT travel to the state of Guerrero, Mexico, including Acapulco, due to crime and kidnapping. Photo Credit: Microstar at en. Wikipedia. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Prior to traveling abroad, read the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories and Alerts for the countries that you’ll be visiting. Review entry and exit requirements, visas, local laws, customs, medical care, road safety, etc.

Write down contact details for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to carry with you in case of any emergency. Consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is a free service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs that allows you to enroll your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Although most top hotel properties are in safe areas, you still need to check the surroundings before booking. Is it located in an upscale area or active business district? Is it safe? Iis it located near any other building that could have a theat against it?  Is there a police station nearby? What about fire and medical response? These are all important questions that need to be asked. You can find neighborhood information by searching online or in any good travel guidebook.

Research the hotel’s own security measures prior to booking. What specific actions do they take to protect their guests? Is the front desk manned 24 hours a day? Do they restrict access to guest-room floors to guests only? Do they have video surveillance cameras in public areas and, if so, are they monitored? Are there security guards on the premises? In areas where terrorism might be an issue, do they restrict vehicular access? Are vehicles inspected before coming onto the property? Book elsewhere if the hotel can’t or won’t provide specific examples.

Fire safety is always a priority. Although the U.S. has strict fire-safety requirements for hotels, this isn’t always the case abroad. Many overseas hotels aren’t as fire-resistant as those in the U.S. and there may be few exits. Escape routes might not be posted. Smoke detectors and sprinkler systems may be nonexistent. Identify fire escape routes immediately upon arriving. Plan what you will do in an emergency. Firefighting equipment and water may be limited. These are serious considerations.

Staying with the major hotel brands or highly rated hotels can help you avoid many issues, as they generally have procedures in place to protect guests. They also usually have security staff onsite. Staying in the most modern hotel should mean that you’re protected by the most modern safety features.

Fountains of Bellagio Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas. Staying with the major hotel brands or highly rated hotels can help you avoid many issues. shown. Photo Credit: urban.houstonian at en. Wikipedia. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

If you’re legally authorized to carry a firearm and/or will be transporting firearms, you should contact the individual hotels prior to booking to inquire about it’s firearm policies. Many hotels don’t allow guests to bring a firearm onto hotel property. Many hotels, including major chain hotels, are individually owned and operated, with each hotel establishing its own policies and procedures.

Personal Preparation

Check with your mobile service provider and make certain that you have a cell phone that will work throughout your trip. Save essential phone numbers on it ahead of time, such as the direct line to the hotel front desk, the nationwide emergency number and, when traveling abroad, the number of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Make two copies of all your important documents (driver license, passport, credit/ATM cards, etc.). Leave one set with a friend and take the other with you in a separate place from the originals. It’s also a good idea to give a friend or family member your itinerary so that they can track you down in case of an emergency.

Only take those valuables with you that you absolutely need. Hotel staff is in and out of guest rooms for a variety of reasons, but it’s not just hotel staff that you need to worry about. Doors are often left propped open by staff members for convenience during housekeeping, allowing easy access to the room by any passerby.

Checking In

When checking in at the front desk, don’t announce your name verbally where anyone may overhear it. Instead, simply hand your ID to the agent at the desk. They’ll be asking for your ID anyway.

Don’t set your credit card on the counter, as it’s too easy for someone nearby to capture the number. When its handed back to you, make certain that it’s your credit card.

Stay with your luggage. Hotel lobbies are very public places; you don’t know hose hanging around. A thief may take advantage of the distraction of a busy lobby.

Make certain that you let your preferences be known when booking. Photo Credit: Rodrigo Salomón Cañas at Pixabay.

Room location is important in regard to safety. Most safety experts recommend a room between the third and sixth floor. They’re high enough to be more difficult to break into but still within reach of most fire-engine ladders. That being said, some fire-safety experts recommend a room no higher than the second floor as it enables you to jump to safety in the event that the fire department can’t reach you in time.

If you’re staying in a hotel where the guest-room doors open to the outside instead of a hallway, try to get a room overlooking an interior courtyard rather than the parking lot. Also, try to get a room near a stairwell in case of a fire.

Make certain that you let your preferences be known when booking. Keep your room number private. Don’t let the front desk agent announce it publicly. Request another room if he or she does so.

Ask the front desk agent what number you should dial in an emergency. Is there a direct line to hotel security? Should you call the national emergency number?

At Your Room

If a valet has accompanied you to your room, block the door open while you check the room. Check anyplace that someone could hide before you shut the door or release the valet.

The very first thing you should do when you arrive at your room is identify fire escape routes. Many modern hotels will have posted building evacuation maps that indicate evacuation routes. Check the location of the nearest stairwell and/or emergency exit. Elevators should never be used in an emergency. Figure out several evacuation routes in case one is blocked and make certain that everyone with you knows the evacuation plan.

Locate the fire alarm. Also check the smoke detectors in your room by pushing the test button. If a smoke detector doesn’t work, have it fixed or get another room.

Check all the locks on the windows and doors in your room when you arrive. Notify the front desk if any aren’t functioning. Always recheck these locks anytime you return to the room as housekeeping personnel may open them and forget to close them.

Suite at the historic Ritz London 5-star luxury hotel. Safety planning isn’t being paranoid. It’s about preparedness and prevention. Photo Credit: Public Domain.

Always lock your door and use the dead bolts and/or security chain whenever you’re in your room. Don’t forget to keep any door to an adjoining room locked as well. It’s always a good idea to use a door wedge or door jammer to further secure doors. Never prop your room door open, even for a moment.

Don’t keep your room key in your key folder. The folder has your room number on it and often your name as well. If you should drop the folder with your key in it, anyone who finds it can access your room. If you lose your room key, immediately report it to the hotel and request to be moved to another room.

A word about guest-room safes: They aren’t safe. Virtually all guest-room safes have a “backdoor” entry method in case hotel staff have a need to get into it in an emergency. Also, room safes aren’t securely fastened down.

The safe deposit box at the front desk is a better option, but bad guys can work at the front desk, as well. If you go that route, always get a receipt for all items. Most hotels don’t accept liability for items left in the guest-room safe but will for items secured at the front desk.

Most hotels offer free Wi-Fi. Hotel Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t always secure, even with a password. Avoid logging into any sensitive accounts without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Staying Safe

Never open the door to anyone until you’re certain of his or her identity. If someone claims to be hotel staff, call the front desk to verify his or her identity.

At night, keep a pair of shoes next to the bed and keep your room key, wallet, ID, smartphone and a flashlight on the bed stand in case you need to leave in a hurry.

Whenever you leave your room, consider putting the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door and leaving the radio or TV on to give the impression to potential thieves the impression that someone is in the room.

Make certain that the hallways are always well lit. If a light is out, report it to the hotel staff. Never hesitate to ask the staff to have an escort accompany you if you feel unsafe.

Always file a police report if you experience any crime during your stay; don’t just tell the front desk. Your homeowners’ insurance policy may cover certain losses when traveling, but the insurance company will need a copy of the police report along with other relevant documentation.

 Millions of people travel every year without any issues. Taking a few simple precautions will help ensure that your trip is trouble free.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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