When gunman Stephen Paddock set up his arsenal of 23 firearms in a Mandalay Bay hotel room on the 32nd floor and shot at a crowd of over 22,000 festival goers on Oct. 1, no one could have anticipated such an attack would occur. It was unprecedented.
Despite hotels across the world having emergency preparedness protocols in place in response to certain types of attacks and scenarios impacting guest and staff safety, many are now wondering what hotels will now be doing to prevent similar attacks from happening in the future – especially in Canada and the U.S.
It’s a discussion that has prompted the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) to review their current safety and security procedures.
“As a business that is centered on serving the public, no issue is more important than safety and security,” the AHLA said in a written statement. “Hotels have safety and security procedures in place that are regularly reviewed, tested and updated as their emergency response procedures. As we better understand the facts in the coming days, we will continue to work with law enforcement to evaluate these measures.”
It’s unclear, however, if the Hotel Association of Canada will be following suit.
“At this time, we are unable to provide further comment on this topic,” an emailed statement to Global News from Elizabeth Smith, spokesperson for the Hotel Association of Canada, reads.
Despite the continued uncertainty, experts believe changes will happen. However, those changes may only be minor says Gabor Forgacs, assistant professor at the school of hospitality and tourist management at Ryerson University.
“I don’t think hotels in the U.S. can do anything differently,” he says. “I don’t think anything more could have been done in this situation (during the Las Vegas shooting). They’ll probably try to train personnel and security to have an eye out for irregular behaviour. But if a guest does not behave in a suspicious manner it will be very difficult to tell.”
Already hotel security’s job is to prevent incidents from happening as best to their ability, and this has been amplified since the recent bombing and hijacking of hotels around the world in recent years, Forgacs says.
“So basically, what they’re working with is a perimeter defence to try and prevent attacks in hotels,” he says. “But if you get someone like this guy in Las Vegas who’s very inconspicuous and doesn’t behave in a suspicious manner, nobody could foretell that this guy had bad intentions. So it’s very difficult for hotel security to filter this out and prevent.”
Hotels already have trained security personnel, as well as security cameras, incident reporting protocols and other safety measures in place to ensure guest safety, but total prevention in these cases is almost impossible, Forgacs says.
“Hotel security has a very delicate balance in terms of how to protect the safety and security of guest and employees because hotels have to be an inviting and hospital environment because you are a hospital operation,” he adds. “So it’s a very delicate balance and it’s a challenge for hotel security.”
If we’re looking at Canada, however, Forgacs isn’t sure much will change as a result of the attack which happened south of the border, but he believes travellers and security experts should learn from it.
But as some studies suggest, it’s important that hotels prepare for the atypical.
A 2013 study published in the SAGE Journal said emergency planning preparedness for a crisis is the “most significant components of dealing with disasters.” It’s something that has been top of mind for hospital practitioners, researchers said, since they’ve noticed a rising number of both natural and man-made crises that harm the hospital industry.
“The results of this study explain that tourism as an international mobile industry must respond to international and external hazards such as disease movement and terrorist attack,” the study reads. “Hotels have a long history of being a soft target for terrorist attacks, as can be seen in several accidents that have shaken the hotel industry in the past few decades. Hotels invest a lot to install protective techniques, but terrorists have become more organized.”
While the attack in Las Vegas wasn’t deemed a terrorist attack, the incident would still fall under the same – if not similar – hotel emergency protocols.
For example, Hilton hotels says it has emergency procedures and incident controls for a wide variety of crisis situations, including chemical spillage and bomb threats, among other things. The details of those protocols are not detailed.
The North Central Group (NCG) – who represents a list of Hampton, Courtyard, Fairfield Home2 and Hilton hotels across the U.S. – details its emergency protocols when a guest is found to have a weapon on them in their risk management manual.
- If a guest with a weapon is found, the manager on duty, general manager and hotel staff should be made aware as soon as possible.
- If a team member enters a guest room and sees a weapon, the team member needs to immediately leave the room and contact the manager on duty with or without the presence of the guest who is renting the room.
- The manager on duty will contact the guest to arrange for guest services to be provided to the room once the weapon has been removed or secured.
- If a guest asks about what they can do to about the presence of their weapon, it may be kept in a safe deposit box located near the front desk.
Emergency protocols may vary by hotel and until all the facts from that Oct. 1st night come in, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to assess how they should improve their protocol, especially since a situation like this has no precedence, Forgacs says.