Hotel security and safe premises – and what to do when they are not
Whether traveling for business or pleasure, the hotels, motels, inns and bed and breakfasts we stay at are our homes away from home. And just like when we’re in our real homes, we want to feel – and actually be – safe when we’re in these temporary residences. The kinds of safety and security we expect in hotels fall into the same categories as when we are at home, but occur in an environment where we are surrounded by strangers and unfamiliar surroundings.
Hotel security and safety categories
Broadly speaking, there are two main categories of hotel safety/security – and two main types of personal injury claims and disputes when safety issues lead to injuries:
- Secure physical premises. The physical structure, layout, features, devices, appliances, etc. of the hotel environment must be those in which we can live and move around in complete safety. Just like in our homes and apartments, stairs and elevators should be safe and functional, pool areas must be appropriately secured for young children and have up-to-date and maintained equipment, rooms must meet appropriate building and safety codes, fire equipment must be functional and regularly inspected, etc. On the contrary, hotels need to give greater consideration to the safety of indoor mobility and the use of their premises, as guests generally encounter these premises for their first and only time – every physical situation they will encounter there in will be news to them. Injuries resulting from issues in these categories will generally be of the premises liability variety common to any home or public building where an unsafe physical condition results in accidental injury.
- Security against crime. Far from their usual family environment, people are naturally more vulnerable to crime when staying in hotels. Everyone around them – other guests, hotel staff, uninvited visitors and vendors – are all unknown factors over which we as guests have little control, but over which the operator of the hotel can have much greater control. Crime can occur unexpectedly in the form of unruly, intoxicated guests who become physically violent, or in the planned form of robbery or sexual assault by intentional criminals. When injuries result from these types of criminal incidents, personal injury claims and lawsuits against hotel owners and staff are more likely to be based on inadequate legal theories of safety or on the selection and l inappropriate hiring of personnel and sub-contractors. A previous investigation revealed that 24% of frequent business travelers said they had been the victim of a crime on hotel premises, almost half of them in the last two years. While robbery was by far the most common hotel crime, 2% said they had been directly assaulted and 9% said they knew someone who had been assaulted. Nor did these events occur solely in “budget” hotels – 69% of the crimes were committed in “large chain hotels” and 40% were reported to occur in “luxury hotels”.
Processes and procedures for hotel safety and security
Whether an injury claim or lawsuit against a hotel is based on unsafe premises or safety issues, the investigation of the claim and proof of liability will often focus on the hotel’s documented processes and procedures – and if they have been correctly followed:
- If an injury occurred due to malfunction of pool equipment, what were the hotel’s procedures for inspecting and maintaining that equipment, and what documentary evidence is there that the procedures were or were not followed?
- If a guest is injured or intentionally assaulted by a member of staff, what were the processes for screening, hiring, reviewing, and disciplining or firing hotel staff, and what shows that these processes have been used correctly?
- If a guest is injured by another guest or visitor on the premises who becomes intoxicated or violent, what are the hotel’s documented procedures for dealing with problematic visitors, and were they followed? Were site security officers (if applicable) briefed and responded appropriately? Were the police called in a timely manner? Was a recurring problem adequately addressed both in security planning and when did the problem actually arise?
Awareness is key, both for customers and staff
Most hotels are equipped with security features that we as guests can and should use – use the locks on our room doors, use safes to store valuables, be aware of fire escape routes and location of fire safety equipment, read and follow rules for pool and spa safety, etc.
Much of the responsibility for safety, however, is largely outside of the customer’s control, but under the control of the hotel to one degree or another. Regularly inspecting and maintaining safe physical premises is an obvious landlord responsibility, and this includes daily (or more frequent) checking of common areas for spills, debris, or broken fixtures that could lead to a slip-and-fall injury. It also includes a constant awareness of who is on the premises, whether or not they should be present, and how they behave and act.
This responsibility also extends to areas around the hotel. Are there ongoing issues with muggings or muggings in the neighborhood that may require additional security personnel, fencing and other physical access restrictions, video surveillance, etc., for guests accessing hotel entrances or parking areas?
And finally, have the hotel staff been properly informed, trained and supervised in the exercise of these security functions? A security guard who has not been trained in the use of video surveillance equipment or who falls asleep watching the monitors is of little benefit to clients. No more than a groundskeeper who was vaguely told to “check the pool twice a day” but who was not given detailed instructions as to what can be a problem who really needs attention in the pool or equipment area.
Watch this video from a popular TV show outlining easy-to-implement safety tips for hotel stays:
Sacramento Premises Liability Lawyer
hello my names Ed Smithand i am a local liability lawyer in Sacramento. When we stay in our “home away from home” at a hotel, spa or resort, we reasonably expect that the premises will be secure and that we will be protected from reasonably anticipated crime. When hotel owners and staff fail at this job, the consequences can be devastating in terms of serious physical injury or criminal assault. If you or a member of your family have been seriously injured due to inadequate hotel security or unsafe premises, please contact us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free counseling and friendly. You can also reach us through our online contact form.
Picture by Michael Raponi from Pixabay
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