Emergency management

The Mumbai (Bombay) terrorist attack has already spawned reams of articles that cover two principal areas of concern for operators that seem to have been inadequately addressed by the Indian hotels:- risk management and property security. A list of security measures to be considered by all hotels as well as tips for travelers can be found in this fairly comprehensive article in USA Today. Risk management varies by country and Indian hotels seem to be limited to a common pool available for property and human loss caused by terrorism all of which is well explained in this article in the Indian business magazine Businessworld

But, so far, few have pointed to the need for standard emergency management procedures or drills that may have enabled staff to react reflexively and safely. Also unclear is whether anyone has focussed on the need to have a central public address system that includes rooms whereby hotel staff could instantly – as opposed to individually calling hotel rooms – notified all guests of the terrorist attack.

While each situation is certain to call for responses based on the nature of the attack and the hotel's infrastructure adopting broad standard emergency response procedures which could include the following:

  • Identifying and correctly reporting fires and property damage via designated sytems such as pull stations.
  • Emergency evacuation
    procedures and route assignments.
  • Procedures to be
    followed by hotel staff who remain to conduct some critical functions
    before they evacuate.
  • Procedures to account
    for all guests and employees after emergency evacuation.
  • Rescue and medical
    duties for key employees who are designated to interact with civic personnel and even perform some duties on their own.
  • Names and phone
    numbers of persons who can be contacted for further information on the
    emergency.
  • Naming (preferably) one person to interact with the press so as to minimize confusion (the Mumbai hotels had mulitple people interacting with the press which arguably added to the sense of chaos)

Most commercial office buildings have a PA system through which the fire safety director can instantly broadcast and emergency and communicate with all occupants of the building. Most hotels on the other hand limit it to the corridor and (in the US) in ADA compliant rooms. That should be expanded to include all rooms.

Risk and emergency management procedures also need constant revision as terrorists continually seem to be coming up with new ways of breaching hotel security. The Marriott hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, had some substantive security measures that prevented the terrorists from getting closer to the hotel which probably saved many lives and yet was unable to prevent the near total destruction of the hotel. Keeping one step ahead of the nihilists requires, at a minimum, a collaborative effort across companies and countries.

Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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