What could be the usual company Security Manager‘s worst nightmare? Perhaps a wide open front door with no turnstile and lots of complete strangers strolling in and out unchallenged, able to wander freely all over the building, and not a boundary fence in sight. It‘s not a bad dream; it‘s the daily challenge for hotel and resort security officers who are charged with ensuring their guests safety and security. We look at the tools and methods available to them to provide the service that every guest can rightfully expect.
A wide open front door is absolutely normal for a hotel. Indeed, in some locations the hotel foyer is simply a stroll-in extension of a shopping arcade or concourse and there is no door at all. While the concierge or staff at the reception desk can keep half an eye on the entrance area when they are not assisting guests, they already have enough to do and cannot be expected to perform any continuous security function. During ‘normal working hours' - that is, early morning until quite late at night - guests would rightly expect to have free access to the foyer without any hindrance.
So the secure guest ‘fortress' can only be further on in the hotel room itself where the guest must both feel and be safe and secure. Purely mechanical guest room door locks are becoming ever more rare nowadays. Electronic locks started to be introduced as long ago as the late 1970s and have continuously reduced the level of hotel room break-ins and theft as their technology has been further developed, with the effect that insurance companies often reduce their premiums when such security measures are improved. The ability of electronic systems to log access activity and decisively prove which key was used, and when, is welcomed by hotel staff and crime investigators alike, particularly for solving ‘inside job' theft by staff.
Hotel guests may soon be asked to either register their mobile phone/PDA or to provide a fingerprint when checking in. The development trend is definitely towards non-contact or biometric guest recognition, including various RFID and face recognition solutions, as well as using the guest's own mobile device to authorize the door to open via Bluetooth.
Integrated into the front-of-house system, such systems very much reduce the task of managing physical keys, cards or plastic strips.
There are areas of a hotel or resort, of course, where staff are not continuously present. Cameras installed in these areas will deter any criminals and provide documentary evidence in the event of a theft or attack but, no doubt taking lessons from Danny Ocean, organized gangs know exactly where the ‘black spots' are. However, ensuring that there is comprehensive coverage of all the areas that are otherwise out of view can bring such organized crime to a halt. A subtle mixture of both obvious and concealed cameras will provide optimum surveillance with a high deterrent factor. The mix may also include camouflaged cameras fitted, for example, in fixed items of furniture or what appear to be smoke detectors.
Today's advanced image analysis algorithms make effective surveillance very much easier for large numbers of cameras and can be selectively applied to raise the alarm exactly when they should, with very small risk of false alarms. Networked cameras stream live images into an IP network and thereby enable surveillance at any other point on the network. Importantly, it is now easy for the Security Chief to monitor events live anywhere on his or her mobile device. All flavors of camera can be networked nowadays; economic fixed domes, fixed or PTZ weatherproofed outside cameras, infra-red low-light cameras as well as high-definition Megapixel cameras. The Swedish manufacturer Axis, for example, has a comprehensive range of equipment that copes with local environmental conditions, complies with national legislation and satisfies operator preferences.
Wherever I Lay my Head
It is important not to forget how things look from the guest's points of view. First impressions are lasting and the general hotel appearance, the lighting, a 'human barrier' at reception and security staff reassure arriving guests that the management have everything under control. Seeing security cameras, clearly marked emergency exits and fire extinguishers will confirm their initial good impression. Hotel management always make a significant effort to ensure that their rooms are clean, tidy and smell nice when the guest opens the door. But guest expectations also include a magnifying peephole out onto the corridor, a sturdy safe for their valuables and a substantial ‘clunk' from the lock on the door. Accreditation to international and national standards as applied by the local Department of Tourism or voluntarily by an independent body such as Safeplace will add to the overall good impression and can significantly increase occupancy levels.
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