In recent times, specific events have served to focus the hotel industry’s spotlight on safety and security issues. With large corporate customers stepping up their requirements when it comes to employee safety and data protection, the industry as a whole has been challenged to boost its safety and security levels without negatively impacting on either day-to-day operations or guests’ experiences of their stay. James Somerville-Smith outlines why today’s hotel environments demand an integrated security solution.
Hotels are busy places. A whole host of different people pass through them every day, including guests and occasional visitors, members of staff, suppliers and even conference and event attendees. In such a public space, where so many individuals come and go, designing the right integrated building system can be something of a challenge. It’s vital to put in place a reliable and accurate security system that can protect against everyday risks (ie theft or damage) and is readily able to cope admirably in an emergency.
In essence, a flexible system is necessary to ensure effective protection and should be a key priority at every stage, from project planning right through to technical implementation.
One solution for hotels encompasses integrated systems. An integrated solution can combine intrusion detection, video surveillance and access control. If the individual components involved are compatible, then the system may be implemented on a modular basis. This means that, if the requirements of the hotel change – as might well be the case when a new wing is added, for example – then the existing solution can be expanded.
Generally speaking, the most efficient safety solutions are the ones that can identify potential dangers at an early stage and offer a dependable defence against them. Consequently, it’s crucial that the safety solutions put in place at any hotel are able to provide protection for a range of issues, especially any threat that could endanger guests’ safety or even their lives, as well as the threat of burglary and/or theft. Building maintenance also remains a key priority for hotel managers and will encompass security.
How these disparate systems come together depends on the environment. For hotels, a comprehensive access control solution ensures that unauthorised individuals are not permitted access to areas such as guest rooms and ‘Personnel Only’ zones. This also applies for public space areas to which only guests should be permitted entry, such as an on-site gym.
The management team needs to ensure that certain spaces – like a spa for guests – are only accessible during set hours. A dedicated access control system is the best way in which to protect and manage such spaces.
For their part, hotel staff have a responsibility to educate guests about their safety and security responsibilities when on site. The challenge is to impart the key messages without negatively affecting the customer experience. For example, staff stationed at the reception desk can stress the importance of guests locking their hotel room doors to prevent strangers from entering.
In addition, reception area staff can also discourage guests from actions that might otherwise leave them vulnerable to thieves, such as showing their room keys or yelling their room number across the lobby.
Publicly accessible areas such as the lobby, the reception area or conference rooms are best protected by a video surveillance system. Advanced video analytics software is extremely useful for hotel security managers as such solutions allow them to efficiently monitor these busy areas and automatically alert staff members when specific abnormal or suspicious behaviour is detected.
By evaluating CCTV images in real-time, hotel security managers are in a position whereby they’re able to prevent criminal activity from occurring on the premises.
When it comes to fire protection, hotels must comply with the requirements outlined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Under that Order, the building owner will most likely be the ‘Responsible Person’ tasked with ensuring that any occupants are safe.
Hotel owners must ensure that the on-site fire alarm system is up-to-date and underpinned by the latest technology and regulation. It should also meet the myriad demands of different rooms and environments.
More dangerous areas, such as a hotel’s kitchen, may require additional layers of protection, while a guest room with a particularly high ceiling might well necessitate a more bespoke installation. On top of this, every hotel’s management must ensure that there are adequate emergency evacuation and escape route technologies in place.
Again, integrated safety technologies can help in bringing these different requirements together. A video surveillance and management system that includes access control, for instance, allows security staff to manage the security and fire system for the entire building from a single point, while an integrated solution comprising fire protection, burglar protection, video surveillance and access control offers advantages for the end user.
Exactly how closely fire protection and safety systems can be integrated often depends on the security demands of the hotel itself. In the event of an incident, an integrated system can show its constituent elements working seamlessly together. For example, if an evacuation alarm within the building is triggered, the access control set-up can automatically open all doors, while security staff scrutinise the video feed and visually verify whether or not there’s an emergency in play. Here, integration between systems means cutting down on false activations and ensures a quicker response from site staff.
The aforementioned video analytics technology is also extremely beneficial in the event of an emergency, as the data obtained by dint of this can help security managers in quickly and properly allocating and deploying their available security resources.
If smoke is detected within the building, an analogue or digital security camera can either capture a specific image or record video footage of the scene. That footage is then processed by proprietary software to confirm whether or not smoke from a possible fire is present. This would likely be the case if the specialised algorithms in use identify a noticeable change in brightness, contrast, shape, motion or colour matching.
If need be, the system can alert and draw a ‘bounding box’ around the detected smoke cloud before transmitting images to trained operators on duty at a central monitoring station. Simply put, this means that security staff can visually verify an alert.
Value of installers
Specialist installers are essential to the development of a reliable security system in hotels. If that system’s tailored to combat the specific challenges posed by the hotel environment and can be expanded at any time, the hotel can offer its guests and employees the greatest possible level of security.
The role of qualified installers in hotels is vital, bringing with them as they do an understanding of building Codes of Practice and the Building Regulations as well as the latest technologies to help the property’s managers ensure that guests and employees alike are always safe and secure.
Furthermore, it’s paramount that hotel managers keep up with the trends and patterns exhibited by the security industry in general as well as their guests. Currently, one of the most significant developments is the sharp rise in hotel guests’ security expectations when in residence. As individuals, they require a robust security system of the highest quality to protect both themselves and members of their family when in their own homes, and would certainly expect no less when staying in a hotel.
Customers of both the security and fire solution markets have marvelled at what technology can achieve in this day and age. With client expectations now arguably higher than at any time in days gone by, it’s no surprise that those same clients are subsequently demanding more and more from the safety regimes with which they might come into contact and interact.
Quite rightly, hotels are now expected to exhibit extremely high standards by their customers when it comes to safety and security. That being so, it’s of critical importance that all hotel staff are thoroughly trained on appropriate security procedures for all high traffic areas such as the reception and front desk area, baggage storage rooms, all guest entry points and any parking zones adjacent to the main building.
Necessarily, the open environment fostered by hotels must be welcoming for guests and visitors but, unfortunately, this also creates vulnerabilities that simply must be addressed. Ensuring that all public spaces are continually monitored by staff and security personnel is crucial in maintaining both a hospitable and safe environment for all concerned.
James Somerville-Smith is EMEA Programmes Leader (Security and Fire) for Honeywell Home and Building Technologies