The sad truth is that criminals target travelers, especially in and around hotels. The abundance of literature on the topic of hotel security does not seem to have deterred criminals from using hotels as a target of their trade. An informal survey of hotel security staff reveals old patterns of crime repeated and new tricks (or new variations of old tricks) continue as before. There are, however, some practices which can reduce your risk of being the target of crime or other hazards in a hotel, especially this new year.
The starting point
The starting point for hotel security consideration begins well before you have checked into the hotel. If you drive to a hotel and park in their garage or parking lot, auto security, luggage protection, and personal safety will be your starting point. If you arrive by cab, your safety in the taxi and care of your luggage will be your starting point. In fact, unless you have visited a particular hotel fairly recently, your starting point should be a telephone call from home to ask a few questions. If the hotel is in a foreign country, the list of questions to ask in advance will be more extensive. Call to confirm your reservations; get a fax of confirmation and note the name of the person you spoke to.
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Questions to ask and where to ask them
There are three questions to ask for selecting a secure hotel: Are there electronic door locks? Is there good key control? And is there a fire alarm and water sprinkler system? Generally, the only way to find this out is calling the hotel directly. The number one security issue is controlling who has access to a guest’s hotel room. While we can install electronic locks and keep a closely controlled system of key control, it is the guests themselves who often let down their guard and fail to lock their door when they go out to get ice at the end of the hall, or open their door to an uninvited intruder. It is important to remember that a hotel is a public place and criminals are attracted to places where outsiders are vulnerable.
What room to reserve?
If possible, avoid staying in a room located on the first floor of a hotel. Since first floor rooms often have sliding doors or windows that are accessible from ground level, they are a greater security risk than rooms on higher floors. Second floor to fifth floor rooms are usually a good choice in the event of a fire, as they are more easily accessible for rescue purposes than rooms on higher levels. But rarely is room selection so simple. If you are attending a convention or visiting during the busy season, your choice of rooms may be limited. And a more expensive room will not guarantee you greater fire security, since the most luxurious suites are usually located on the top floors, and can therefore be more difficult to escape in a fire. Rooms away from the ice machine or utility area will minimize your exposure to the noise of hallway traffic, and a room near a stairwell will provide an alternative to endless waiting for crowded elevators.
However, women traveling alone may wish to choose a room near hall or stairwell surveillance cameras for added security. Before you get settled into your assigned room, verify that there is a reasonably quick access to a fire escape route by window or stairway.