There are two criteria for selecting a secure hotel: electronic locks
and good key control. Unfortunately, there is no way to find out about these
features without calling the hotel directly. What this means in terms of
threat analysis is that the number one security issue is controlling who
has access to a guestís hotel room. While a hotel can install electronic
locks and establish a rigorous protocol for key control, itís still a public
place and is susceptible to criminals. Unfortunately, itís the guests themselves
who donít exercise caution by failing to lock their door when they go for
ice at the end of the hall or open their door to an uninvited intruder.
As a measure of both convenience and security, call the hotel directly
before you begin your trip to confirm your reservations, to arrange for
such special needs as wheelchair access, or to help with large amounts of
luggage. You can also ask about cab fare and shuttle services from the airport,
and directions to the hotel. If noise at night is a concern you might want
to request a room away from an ice dispenser, vending machine area, and
Standard Safety Practices for a Hotel Guest
When you first enter your hotel room, leave the door open and check to see
that no one is in the bathroom or under the bed. If family or associates
are with you, have them stay in the doorway while you check the room.
When you are in your room, lock the door, attach the chain, and use the
peephole to identify any person who knocks at your door.
Do not open your door for unexpected callers, and phone the front desk
to verify that someone claiming to be making an unexpected service call
is on the hotel staff.
If you order food to be delivered from outside the hotel, the most secure
procedure is to accept and pay for the delivery in the lobby. If you instruct
the front desk to permit outside delivery to your room, the delivery person
will know your name and room number and after the delivery is made, whether
you are alone or with others. It is unwise for any traveler, especially
a woman, to share that knowledge with an outsider.
Be careful about what leftovers you place outside your door. If there
is a single drinking cup with lipstick markings and the remnants from a
single meal, passers-by can make judgments about the vulnerability of the
When you are sleeping, be sure to use your deadbolt and chain locks and
assure that no access to your room is possible through a window. You may
also wish to carry with you one of a number of intruder alarms that also
double as smoke detectors.
Do not leave valuables in your room when you are absent. Use the hotel
safe. Professional thieves and hotel staff have seen every hiding place
for valuables that you can imagine, including hollowed-out books and dummy
When you are not in your room, you should leave every indication to a
passerby that your room is occupied. Your light should be left on, the television
should be audible, and except at the hours when you want cleaning staff
to clean your room, put the DO NOT DISTURB sign on your doorknob.
If you leave your room to use a swimming pool or fitness room, be careful
about where you keep your key or key card. Do not leave it visible among
your belongings at poolside. Ideally, leave it at the front desk and retrieve
it when you return to your room.
Smoke and Fire
In a low-rise hotel, ease of access and exit by several routes provides
assurance of escape in the event of fire. Even so, one of the first measures
you should take is to count the number of doorways from your hotel room
to the stairwell, so that in the dark of night, in the midst of smoke and
ringing fire alarm, you can count the doors and crawl to that stairwell
door to escape. Put your key or key card and glasses beside your bed so
that in an emergency you can find them quickly. If you leave your room in
such an emergency, take your key card - you might have to retreat and re-enter
your hotel room.
In a high rise building, escape from fire and smoke may
be more complicated. Again, you should memorize the number of doorways to
the fire-escape stairwell, and walk down the stairwell so you will know
if there are any unexpected traffic patterns at a mezzanine floor or arriving
at the ground floor. This pattern should also be memorized in case all is
dark and smoky and others around you are in a panic.
Most hotels have bedside instructions about what to do in case of fire
- read them. They may save your life. Here again, an intruder alarm that
doubles as a smoke detector, often with an emergency flashlight, is invaluable.
If you see smoke or fire in the hotel, call 911 first to get the fire
department, then call the front desk.
The information in this brochure is provided by Peter V. Savage, author
of The Safe Travel Book, (available at 800-462-6420
or 888-499-7277.) Savage has over 20 years
experience as an international security consultant. His articles appear
regularly in Bottom Line: Personal, and he has written for Travel
Executive, The Business Traveler, Travel One, and various
other travel and security publications. He has appeared on both the Oprah
Winfrey and Geraldo shows, and regularly appears on CNN
when travel security is affected. Savage is currently active as a security
counselor and principal in Passport Health, Inc., a travel medicine clinic
with offices nationwide
The information provided is purely advisory in nature. While the information
is valuable, it is not comprehensive. We can point you in the right direction,
but we highly recommend that you take the time to make the calls and conduct
research carefully to make your trip a safe and smooth one.