Should Hotels be Offering Panic Buttons to Their Staff?

Picture of Andrea Lebron By Andrea Lebron

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panic-button-on-keyboard-1024x768-2-646074-editedIn recent years, a number of hotels have started issuing wearable panic buttons to employees whose job involves entering a guest room or bathroom alone. However, considering the delays in responding to the Mandalay Bay hotel shooting last fall, should hotels be offering panic buttons to all staff?

In Seattle and Chicago, hotels are required by law to provide panic buttons to employees who work alone. Panic buttons must also be distributed to lone employees in unionized hotels in New York and Las Vegas, and the Marriot Hotel chain is voluntarily working on a pilot project to equip employees who work alone with “personal distress alarms”. Employees of the Hyatt Hotel chain already have them.

The purpose of equipping housekeepers, engineers and room service staff with panic buttons is to allow them to instantly summon help if they are sexually assaulted or harassed by a guest – a job hazard worker advocates say is more common than most people realize. They can also be used to alert hotel security to a fire or to request medical assistance if an unresponsive hotel guest is discovered in a room.

In Seattle, the first city to pass a hotel panic button law on 2016, housekeepers are reporting they feel safer according to union organizer Abby Lawlor. Lawlor says she is unaware of specific circumstances in which the panic buttons has been used to prevent a sexual assault, although they did prove useful when a group of housekeepers got trapped in an elevator at one Seattle hotel.

Related Article: Protecting Low-Wage Workers and Women of Color

The Mandalay Bay Hotel Shooting in October 2017

On October 1st, 2017, gunman Stephen Paddock fired more than a thousand rounds of ammunition from his 32nd floor room in the Mandalay Bay hotel at concertgoers attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. Paddock killed 58 people and injured a further 851 concertgoers during a ten-minute shooting spree, at the end of which he shot and killed himself.

Shortly before the shooting started, a hotel security guard had been sent to the 32nd floor to investigate an open door alert. On hearing the shooting, the security guard went to investigate and was shot in the leg. Both he and a nearby maintenance worker reported the shooting to their superiors and told them to call the police.

It took police officers already at the Mandalay Bay hotel (investigating an unrelated incident) approximately fifteen minutes to respond, and a further fifteen minutes for more officers to arrive at the scene - the delays being attributed to confusion over whether the shots had been fired from the Mandalay Bay hotel, the nearby Luxor hotel, or within the venue where the festival was being held.

Related Article: Five Emerging Trends Revolutionizing Community Preparedness  and Large-scale Event Safety

Are Panic Buttons for Hotel Staff Enough?

Panic buttons have now been issued to employees at the Mandalay Bay hotel - but these only connect staff to managers in order to notify acts of abuse, assault or harassment. In an emergency, employees would be unable to communicate the nature of the emergency or connect directly with 9-1-1. Effectively, the Mandalay Bay hotel shooting could take place again with the exact same consequences.

A far more appropriate solution would be a mobile panic button app that connects directly to 9-1-1. With two taps of a screen, app users can notify 9-1-1 of an emergency, the nature of the emergency and its location. 9-1-1 dispatchers get details of the individual who has initiated the emergency call, and details of the environment in which the emergency is occurring - such as floor plans, access points and utility shutoffs.

An after-action report was released yesterday on August 27th, 2018 by FEMA, the Clark County Fire Department and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department detailing the entire emergency response at the Mandalay Bay hotel. What's made clear is that critical emergency response personnel were not on the same page as the incident unfolded. However, perhaps had the nature of the incident and its location had been immediately relayed to 9-1-1 dispatchers, coordination with other parties onsite and those responding to the incident could have been better orchestrated and the confusion that led to the delayed response could have been averted. 

While the incident that occurred at the Mandalay Bay Route 91 harvest music festival is at a larger scale, it showcases the need for better communication between hotel staff and security to enhance emergency preparedness.

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Written by Andrea Lebron

Andrea is Rave's Director of Digital Marketing, a master brainstormer and avid coffee drinker. Andrea joined Rave in August 2017, after 10 years of proposal and corporate marketing at an environmental engineering firm. You'll find her working with her amazing team in writing and producing blogs like this one, improving your journey to and through our website, and serving you up the best email content. When she's not in front of a keyboard, she's chasing after her three daughters or indulging in her husband's latest recipe. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing/Management from Northeastern University and an MBA from Curry College.

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