Hospitality operations, large and small, are extremely vulnerable to security hazards. The very nature of the operation which involves the presence of a wide diversity of people, most of whom are unknown, poses a considerable threat to the security of a property. Risks of fire are also serious; the incidence of hotel fires causing loss of life and serious damage to property has increased in recent years. Although a very important part, safety and security, like training and development, is often left on the back burner until a crisis occurs.
The current trend is of using the term safety in discussing matters such as disaster prevention, protection devices and conditions that provide for freedom from injury and damage to property. Security, however, is used more as a means to describe the need for freedom from fear, anxiety and doubt, as well as the protection and defence against the loss or theft of property. Both terms are, however, more generally recognised as parts of a greater whole.
The two most important aspects of emergencies are that they are unforeseeable and un-controllable. Both of these factors produce unwanted and unanticipated side effects. It is therefore imperative that there be advance planning and that training and drills be held in combating all types of emergencies.
The executive housekeeper in any hotel has long been involved in security procedures directly or indirectly. It has now become imperative for all the housekeeping staff to have adequate knowledge and to be involved in the analysis of risks being taken daily by the company, and in the management of such risks in such a way as to reduce the threat to the comapany’s assets. It is, therefore, necessary to understand what might be recognised as the assets of a hospitality business. The assets fall into three broad categories:
Human – Guests and employees
Physical – Land, equipment, inventory & facility
Intrinsic – Goodwill and reputation
What the housekeeping department can do
No other hotel employee has as much access to hotel assets and guest property as the members of the housekeeping department. No one is more sensitive to the problems of theft from hotel guestrooms than the honest attendant who is known to possess a floor master key to a guestroom that has just been robbed. There is this assumption that, because housekeeping has a key to the room, if anything is missing, the department is by default the culprit, but there are instances when thefts have been triggered from within the housekeeping employees. Housekeeping personnel have reach to all the areas of the hotel and have maximum knowledge of guest areas and public areas. Any terror activity can easily be planned in a hotel if one has help from the housekeeping department. To avoid this, organisation should ensure the following:
Professional hiring practices:
- Use of proper screening methods during hiring operations. Complete applications, including follow-up of questionable information and reference checks, are vital to good hiring practices.
- Gaps in employment history on applications may hide significant information.
- Every employee should understand that references will be checked before any hiring decision will be made. When making reference checks, phone calls are often better than requests in writing.
Positive identification techniques
Large properties require identification of all employees, usually by a badge system that contains a photograph, signature and a colour code indicating the department or work area of the employee. Such identification systems discourage people bent on stealing by trying to pass off as employees. Uniform also identifies staff and helps expose employees who are out of their work areas without good explanations.
With the renewed awareness, security is no longer the job of just the security department. Today, security is the responsibility of all who work for the organisation.They should have concerns regarding the volatility and fragility of our hospitality industry with regard to foreseeable security and safety matters.
Theft orientation and attitude training
During employee training, it is important to remind trainees that even though the vast majority of employees are completely honest, one dishonest staff with a passkey can be devastating to an operation. One such person in the midst of other honest employees could cast mistrust over the entire organisation. Employees should understand that it is each one’s duty not only to encourage honesty among fellow workers but also to confront and bring forth those who would cause any employee to fall under suspicion of dishonesty.
Close supervision on key control programme
The large number of multipurpose keys maintained within the housekeeping department make it necessary for a key-control programme to be all-encompassing and strictly enforced. Each day, keys should be issued to employees who have a need for them after taking their acknowledgments. Keys must be properly accounted for at all times, either as inventory in a key locker or properly logged out.
Regular locker inspections
Although regular and routine locker inspections (even though unannounced) are conducted primarily to ensure that items such as company property and soiled uniforms are not being allowed to accumulate in lockers, the knowledge that a locker inspection could occur at any time tacitly disqualifies the locker as a place for temporarily storing contraband items.
Inventory control programmes
Inventory of guest supplies, cleaning supplies, linens and other capital items should be taken regularly. Employees who have been counselled to be careful with supplies need to be appreciated when their efforts have brought about cost reductions.
Records of missing items
When items are reported or found to be missing, make cross-reference files of the item by the type and of the employee who could have been involved. Sometimes patterns develop that are valuable in uncovering causes for the loss.
Employee parking areas should be sufficiently far away from buildings and structures so as to make it difficult to slip in and out of an entrance several times a day and into a parked car. Areas to and from employee parking should be well lit.
The handling and disposal of trash is a significant part of housekeeping. This job should be monitored by supervisors on a rotating basis. Because of the possibility that trash might be used to hide contraband, it should not be allowed to accumulate near incoming supplies and equipment.