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Security-Front Office

Importance of a Security Department          
The front office is a hotel’s communication center; it is the vital link between the hotel management and the guest. When a guest calls for assistance because of fire, illness, theft, or any other emergency, it is usually the front office that must respond. The staff on duty at the front office cannot leave and resolve the emergency because they must continue to provide communication services and process financial transactions. The security depart- ment staff must react with speed and efficiency to serve the guest.        
The security department is often regarded as a passive department, reacting only when called on. In reality, it is a very active department, setting policies, organizing programs, and delivering training programs to promote guest and employee safety. The director of security is a trained professional who must ensure that a busy hotel filled with guests, employees, and equipment stays safe. One of the department’s goals is to prevent emer- gencies through planning. Another goal, however, is to train all hotel employees to re- spond to emergencies.        
The importance of security to a hotel is emphasized in the following Hotel Security Report article by Patrick M. Murphy, CPP, director of loss prevention services at Marriott International, Inc., Washington, D.C., who reports on Marriott International’s adoption of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) in its chain of 1,900 owned and managed properties worldwide:          
CPTED is part of a total security package. It can include anything and everything from the presence of security or loss prevention officers at a property to plans for protecting the interior, lobby, and guestrooms; exterior and parking area; and the surrounding neighborhood. Its goal is to keep the criminals from breaking into any area of the property; it accomplishes this by subtly making the environment un- comfortable for them.        

The hotel priority areas in CPTED include the following.       
-    Building entrances—When reviewing a property we look to see that all en- trances are inviting, brightly lit with no obstructing shrubbery. At night, side entrances should be restricted by use of card readers so that non-registered guests must pass through the lobby and past the main check-in desk.         
-    Hotel lobbies—They should be designed to be visually open, with minimal blind spots for front desk employees. Lobbies also should be designed so that persons walking through the front door must pass the front desk to reach the guestroom corridors or elevators.        
-    Guestrooms—These [electronic locking systems] create an environment where keys are automatically changed when a new guest checks in; locks also can be interrogated to determine the last person to enter the room.        
-    Guest amenities—Marriott designs its new properties with glass doors and walls to allow for maximum witness potential when providing swimming pools, exercise rooms, vending areas, and laundry facilities. Adding house phones in these areas makes it possible for guests to call for help if they feel uncomfortable or threatened by anyone.        
-    Exterior of the property—CPTED principles call for bright lighting at walk- ways and entrances. Traffic should be directed to the front of the hotel prop- erty to make would-be criminals as visible as possible. Entrances to the hotel grounds should be limited. Landscaping, such as hedges and shrubbery, can also create aesthetically pleasing barriers to promote the desired traffic and pedestrian flow.        
-    Parking—The preferred lighting is metal halide. High-pressure sodium should be avoided because it casts a harsh yellow light. The optimal parking lot or garage has one entrance and exit with well-marked routes of travel for both cars and pedestrians. Garages need to be as open as possible, encouraging clear lines of sight. Elevators and stairwells that lead from the garage into the hotel should terminate at the lobby level, where a transfer of elevators or a different set of stairs should be required to reach guestroom floors. Other CPTED features in the garage should include CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras, installation of emergency call boxes, and painting the walls white to increase the luminosity of light fixtures while creating an atmosphere that is appealing to the eye.            
In today’s litigious society, an environment in which consumers sue providers of prod- ucts and services for not delivering those products and services according to expected operating standards, it is important to maintain a well-organized security department. The cost of a human life lost because of negligence or the financial loss due to a fire far outweighs the expense incurred in operating a security department.        
The following case illustrates the expense that can result from security breaches: Perhaps the most significant [of high-visibility hotel crimes] was the 1974 rape of singer/actress Connie Francis in a Westbury, N.Y. hotel, which resulted in a much- publicized trial culminating in a multimillion-dollar verdict against the hotel. The case is still considered the industry’s “wake-up call” in terms of legal liability.             

Organization of a Security Department           
The security department of a hotel is organized like any other department. At the head of the department is the director of security, who is responsible for maintaining a safe environment for guests and employees. The security director needs personnel, technology, and a budget to operate a 24-hour control system for the hotel. Depending on the size of the hotel, there may be an assistant director of security, who would act in the absence of the director and assist in the administrative and supervisory functions of the department. The director of security reports to and works with the general manager and interacts with each department director. Each of the shifts (7a.m. to 3p.m., 3p.m. to 11p.m., and 11 p.m. to 7a.m.) is staffed with shift supervisors and security guards who are responsible for patrolling the grounds to watch the activities of the guests and employees and check on safety and security equipment. The number of people required to staff this department depends on the size of the hotel. the figure  is an organization chart of a security de- partment for a large hotel.

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