In an age of heightened risks of terrorism and a recent warning
issued specifically for “soft targets” such as restaurants and
hotels, leaders in the travel industry have set out to help
businesses learn how to prevent and manage crises.
Hotels, for example, should have a crisis management team,
routinely inventory their emergency supplies, know how to evacuate
if fire or police are unavailable and educate staff to recognize
indications of a potential problem.
That advice is among information distributed to New York City
hotels, which have gained experience and refined their methods
since the Sept. 11 attacks, anthrax scares and the massive August
Through seminars and its publication, Newsline, the Hotel
Association of New York City has provided members with information
on preventing incidents on property, handling problems if they
arise and coping in the event the entire city is affected.
The National Restaurant Association also has increased efforts
to protect the safety of food since Sept. 11 and reminds members
that the things they would do to discourage an act of terrorism
could also prevent things such as employee violence.
“Know your employees. Know who you’re hiring. Make sure the IDs
are valid and do check references,” said Steven Grover, vice
president of health and safety regulatory affairs for the National
Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C. “Limit access to the
back rooms to the employees who do need access. ... A lot of these
are common sense,” Grover said.
In October, the Washington Post reported on new threats to “soft
targets” in the United States, including hotels, airports and
The restaurant association is encouraging businesses to create
security awareness around their building, install video cameras and
good lighting and maintain clear visibility.
Following the August blackout, Jimmy Chin, chairman of the
HANYC’s security and safety committee, advised members to review
their emergency plans and focus on the basics.
Chin, who is also director of risk management for The Peninsula
hotel, advises hotel officials to know who is on the property’s
crisis management team and meet with them regularly as well as
update mutual-aid agreements with other hotels.
Among advice: During an emergency, gather facts first and
deliver the information to staff, guests and the hotel operator; be
prepared to make decisions about shutting down the heating and air
conditioning systems and whether to close the hotel to the
Also on his list, published for HANYC members in Newsline, is to
“think out of the box.”
For example, when the blackout started it was unclear if the
city was again under attack.
“One security director, in the absence of TV, used his Nextel
phone to call the company’s Chicago hotel,” Chin wrote. “The
Security Director there then confirmed that the blackout affecting
NYC was not terrorist related.”
The hotel organization has advised its members to hold drills to
be able to quickly lock down the hotel and shut down the heating,
ventilation and air conditioning systems.
The door staff should also be trained to recognize anything out
of the ordinary.
Other members of the hotel staff should have enough training to
help minimize panic during a crisis.
The New York hotel association has also offered meetings with
leaders of the fire and police departments to understand their
needs during an emergency.
Ideally, hotels should have a summary guide at the fire
department and at the hotel that includes the population of the
building, a site plan and floor plans with all stairwells marked in
yellow, the location of standpipe risers, elevator risers,
stairwell risers, ventilation risers and their configurations. The
location of utility disconnects should also be marked.
Security advice for small business owners is available online
from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at www.ready.
gov, but it does not yet have specific advice for the travel
industry except for the airlines.
Since the DHS was created in March, its main priority has been
the protection of critical infrastructure, which includes the
airlines, said Donald Tighe, the DHS’ director of communication for
information analysis and infrastructure protection.
The DHS has been meeting with the leaders of some travel
industry groups to develop specific security guidelines, but that
advice has not yet been completed.