Crisis Management

    Plan | Act | Communicate

    In May, as Minneapolis, New York City, Los Angeles, and dozens of other major US cities faced protests and civil unrest, hoteliers found themselves and their businesses in the depths of a new, emerging major crisis wrapped-up in an already ongoing major crisis.

    Hotels around the country, just beginning the recovery process from COVID-19, are now grappling with how to best secure their assets and protect their staff amidst unprecedented civil unrest in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis while being restrained by police.

    Careful, detailed planning in advance of crisis situations is always the best response. Let’s discuss what additional actions hotels should consider to protect their business:
    Starting with the basics, hotels and businesses are private property reserved for the exclusive use of guests and people that are authorized to be there. The general public has no right to protest or demonstrate on hotel property. These events should take place on public property such as city sidewalks and streets.

    Hotel owners are well within their rights should they choose to barricade or otherwise block their parking lots and refuse entry to non-guests. Management always has the final say on what actions to take in order to protect their business, given the present circumstances.

    Actions to Take Before a Crisis

    The more familiar that your local police or sheriff’s office are with your property and business, the better; Maintain an active relationship with your local law enforcement agency. This can be as simple as calling your local area police supervisor to meet with you at the hotel. Invite them to lunch so you can openly discuss the issues. Hotels are also encouraged to invite officers in to your property for coffee and to use the restrooms while on-duty, at any time, day or night.

    Proactive measures are key in preparing for crisis. Make an appointment with your local crime prevention bureau and ask them to inspect your hotel and provide recommendations that advance crime prevention. True advocacy for your business calls for taking the time to utilize all resources available to residents and business. Engaging public officials and establishing positive, working relationships is crucial.

    Actions to Take During a Crisis

    Hotel management should have a solid understanding of the buildings’ life safety systems. Staff should be proficient in operating the fire alarm system as well as the ability to shut down fire sprinklers. Arrange extra fire extinguishers so that they are located strategically throughout the hotel.

    Take action to secure obvious valuables. Locking up alcohol, securing cash in vaults or safes, and safe guarding valet car keys as well as guest property.

    Hotel staff should be trained how to quickly lock the hotel entrances and doors. Maintain extra keys for electrical rooms, elevator service rooms, fire alarm control panel rooms as well as keys for all ground floor meeting and conference rooms.

    Crisis Communications

    All hotels, in concert with their crisis plans, should have an updated plan for crisis communications. If management has to figure out what notifications need to be made as a crisis is underway, then they are already too late.

    Specifically, guests should be notified of any potential protests and demonstrations by calling or emailing them before arrival or by speaking with them as they check-in. Guests that are already in-house, can be notified by calling them or leaving them voicemails and letters in their room.

    You may have to assist guests with locating alternate accommodations outside of the affected area. Temporarily stop accepting reservations if you receive advanced notice of a protest, demonstration or event.

    Loss of electrical power is often associated with crisis situations. It’s important to be familiar with existing plans for any power outages, including the availability of quality flashlights and emergency lighting sources. All hotel staff should have access to two-way radios. If additional radios are needed, there are many vendors who offer short and long-term radio system rentals.

    Additionally, hotel owners and operators should always be working to widen their networks within the industry. Networking is key to knowledge and a great way to learn what other industry best practices are working at your colleague’s properties. The Anaheim Disney Resort Crime Alert Network (CAN), Anaheim Police Department Tourist Oriented Policing Detail (TOP) as well as the Bay Area Security Directors Association are just a few examples among many of resources available to California hotels.

    In order to win the day and mitigate damage and threats to safety, engagement will be the key. Engage your local law enforcement agencies. Engage your insurance brokers and insurers. Engage your attorney or general counsel, ownership, management company and brand to prepare for and successfully manage the crisis. Do all of these things today.

    Todd Seiders, CLSD, Director of Loss Control, and Matt Karp, CLSD, CFI-I, Senior Loss Control Manager for Petra Risk Solutions, which provides a full-range of risk management and insurance services for the hospitality owners and operators.

    Their website is www.petrarisksolutions.com.