Hotel Security Tips for
Small Business Travelers

by Paul Davis

Planning to travel soon? Criminals target unsuspecting hotel guests. The best way to not become a target yourself is to take precautions and be watchful. The following tips can help.

Paul Davis
On Crime & Security

As many small business people will travel for business and attend conventions this time of year, be advised that one should be security conscious even if staying in a fine hotel.

On March 22nd entertainer Jamie Foxx was assaulted in a fine hotel in Philadelphia. A 49-year-old homeless man knocked on Foxx’s hotel room door and claimed to be a producer. When Foxx opened his door the man attempted to force his way in. Fortunately, Foxx prevented the man from entering his room and he was not hurt in the struggle.

Hotel security later called the Philadelphia police when they spotted the man. The man was arrested and charged with burglary, criminal threats, false imprisonment and other crimes.

Of course not all criminals look like crazed homeless people. The so-called “Craigslist Killer” looks like a 22-year-old medical student, which is what he is. The police suspect the man of murdering a masseuse, as well as attacking two other escorts. The victims all advertised on Craigslist and met the suspect in hotel rooms.

RELATED: Safety Tips for SOHO Travelers

While overseeing security programs for many years for a Defense Department command in Philadelphia, I often performed travel security seminars for the entire command. I also offered personalized travel security briefings for individuals who were traveling for the government or on vacation.

I advised our military and civilian employees that although most hotels are safe, one should be aware that criminal predators operate in and around hotels. Pickpockets, armed robbers, con artists and rapists look for potential victims there as many vacationers and business travelers tend to let their guard down while relaxing at hotels. Terrorists have also targeted hotels in several resort areas around the world.



The U.S. State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) offers American travelers some good hotel security tips. While the tips are designed for overseas travel, many of the tips can also be applied for hotel stays in the continental United States. Some of the tips are listed below:

  • When checking into your hotel, be aware of persons in the hotel lobby who may have an unusual interest in your arrival.

  • If carrying your luggage, keep it within view or touch. One recommendation is to position luggage against your leg during registration but place a briefcase or a purse on the desk or counter in front of you.

  • Ground floor rooms which open to a pool area or beach with sliding glass doors and window access, are considered vulnerable. Depending upon the situation, area, and security coverage, exercise a higher level of security if assigned a first floor room.

  • It is suggested that female travelers request rooms that are away from the elevator landing and stairwells. This is to avoid being caught by surprise by persons exiting the elevator with you or hiding in the stairwell.

  • Always accept bellman assistance upon check-in. Allow the bellman to open the room, turn lights on, check the room to ensure that it is vacant and ready for your stay. Before dismissing the bellman, always inspect the door lock, locks on sliding glass doors, optical viewer, privacy latch or chain, guest room safes, dead bolt lock on interconnecting suite door, and telephone. If a discrepancy is found, request a room change.

  • Ask where the nearest fire stairwell is located. Make a mental note which direction you must turn and approximately how many steps there are to the closest fire stairwell. In the event of a fire, there is frequently dense smoke and no lighting.

  • Also observe where the nearest house telephone is located in case of an emergency. Determine if the telephone is configured in such a manner that anyone can dial a guest room directly, or whether the phone is connected to the switchboard. Most security-conscious hotels require a caller to identify whom they are attempting to telephone rather than providing a room number. (I would add that travelers always carry a cell phone with them as well).

  • Note how hotel staff are uniformed and identified. Many "pretext" crimes occur by persons misrepresenting themselves as hotel employees on house telephones to gain access to guest rooms. Avoid permitting a person into the guest room unless you have confirmed that the person is authorized to enter. This can be verified by using the optical viewer and by calling the front desk.

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Look up and down the street before exiting a building.

  • Avoid jogging or walking in cities you are not familiar with. If you must jog, be aware of the traffic patterns when crossing public streets. (Joggers have been seriously injured by failing to understand local traffic conditions.)

  • Valuables should normally be left at home. The rule of thumb is, if you neither want nor can afford to lose them, don’t take them.

  • Keep your luggage locked whenever you are out of the room. It will not stop the professional thief but it will keep the curious maid honest.

  • At night, lock your passport and your other valuables in your luggage. This eliminates their mysterious disappearance while you are asleep or in the shower.

  • Utilize a portable or improvised burglar alarm while asleep. Two ash trays and a water glass are quite effective as an alarm when placed on the floor in front of the entry door into your room. Place a water glass in one ashtray and put the second ashtray on top of the glass. If a straight chair is available, place it next to the door and put the ash tray/water glass alarm on the edge of the chair where it will fall with enough racket to wake you.

  • While in the room, keep the door closed and engage the dead bolt and privacy latch or chain. A limited number of hotel emergency keys can override the dead bolt locks. To ensure privacy use the latch or chain.

  • Hoteliers provide guest room "safes" for the convenience of guests. However, these containers are not as durable as bank safes and can be breached. Furthermore, the Housekeepers Liability Laws provide that if guest property is not in the "care, custody and control of the hotel," the hotel is not liable. Guests should always place money or valuables in the safe deposit box at the front desk of the hotel.

  • When leaving the guest room, ensure that the door properly closes and is secured. Make a mental note of how your property was left; avoid leaving valuables in plain view or in an unorganized manner. A number of hotel employees enter the room each day to clean, repair and restock the room. Although most hotel employees are honest and hardworking, a few succumb to the temptation of cash or jewelry left unprotected.

  • Prior to traveling, it is recommended that you copy all credit cards, passport, air tickets and other documents to facilitate reporting loss and replacing them. While traveling abroad, secure these documents in the room safe deposit box and carry copies of your passport and visa.

  • Request housekeeping make up your room while you are at breakfast, rather than leave a "Please Service This Room" sign on the door knob. This sign is a signal to criminals that the room is unoccupied.

  • If you are required to use parking stickers in your auto, be sure that it does not indicate your name or room number.

  • Look for emergency procedures printed in all hotel rooms. Try to receive a room that is not directly above the front lobby, if possible, and a room not above floor seven, which would make it harder to get down the stairs in a fire emergency.

Law enforcement and security professionals say that most crimes are preventable. To avoid becoming a crime victim while staying at a hotel, one should follow the above hotel security tips.

About the author: 
Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime & security for newspapers, magazines and the Internet. He can be reached at pauldavisoncrime@aol.com

Paul Davis on Crime & Security

 
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