Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Del., has seen more than
its share of high-profile guests, so it wasn't unusual
when former Vice President Al Gore swept through its
elegant halls one September evening surrounded by
watchful security guards.
so many visits by the famous and powerful before him,
this one came off without a hitch, and hotel staff
could breathe a sigh of relief. Since Sept. 11, hotels
like the du Pont have grown increasingly concerned
with the perception and reality of the safety for
their guests — particularly corporate, business
and association travelers that can make up 60-70 percent
of their annual revenues.
Wilmington serving as a frequent battleground for
corporate mergers, bankruptcies and patents, the Hotel
du Pont is often called on to provide a safe and secure
staging area. No wonder the 217-room hotel agreed
to put its practices, policies and equipment to the
test in a safety assessment conducted by cross-town
neighbor SafePlace Corp., which has developed a safety
accreditation program geared to the lodging industry.
While other well-known companies — such as AAA
and the Mobil Travel Guide — rate hotels based
on comfort and quality, SafePlace provides a broad
range of testing that highlights health and safety
who win its certification — a sort of seal of
approval for lodging safety — may gain an advantage
in the tough fight for travel industry dollars still
lagging after an unprofitable 2001.
DuPont (Corp.) has been very aggressive in ensuring
that we have a safe work place,” says Deborah
W. Hopkins, director of DuPont Hospitality, which
includes not only the hotel, but the DuPont Country
Club and the DuPont Playhouse Theatre.
accreditation — which provides hotels with a
mark they can use in advertising — ensures that
the facility conforms to national fire, safety and
health standards. In addition, to meet accreditation
standards, they must also practice good access control
policies, such as using electronic locks rather than
keys and installing advanced closed circuit monitoring
equipment that can alert security officials when something
hotels both large and small competing for fewer travelers,
the SafePlace accreditation can mean the difference
between success and failure of the property, according
to John Fannin, the fire protection and industrial
expert who founded the company.
of the corporate travel managers are stepping forward
and mandating SafePlace accreditation by a certain
date,” Fannin says. “Most are giving their
hotels 18 months to comply before they'll no longer
place their employees there. That has gotten the attention
of the hotels that service those businesses.”
Pont's Hopkins observed that her property is starting
to get questions about safety and security from some
meeting planners. The individual pleasure traveler
on the other hand, probably isn't going to make a
hotel decision based solely on an accreditation.
meeting planners I think more and more they are looking
for safe and secure environments,” says Hopkins,
whose own property was accredited in April —
the first for SafePlace. “For that portion of
our business it will help improve sales.”
executives, on the other hand, have always been security-conscious.
this year, Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Florina traveled
to Wilmington to testify in a lawsuit brought by dissident
shareholder Walter Hewlett. During her stay, the Hotel
du Pont used both off-duty police officers and plainclothes
security guards to provide protection. With tempers
running high because of the merger between HP and
rival Compaq, an off-duty police sergeant even accompanied
Florina to court.
so much at risk, business and corporate executives
can't afford to have their plans disrupted by poor
security. To remain competitive in attracting these
kinds of guests and their meetings, facilities like
the Hotel du Pont have to provide an increased level
reassure its guests, the hotel provides CCTV monitoring
of its public spaces, secure data and telephone lines
and around-the-clock security checks. Hotel rooms
are even sound-proofed to ensure that discussions
of sensitive business issues don't reach the wrong
security already in place, the Hotel du Pont wasn't
overly concerned when SafePlace inspectors came calling.
process of accreditation begins with a three-part
application. At its heart is a six-page application
form that each hotel must complete. It begins with
a characterization of the property, such as its location,
size, number of rooms and facilities. It asks whether
it's connected to a convention facility, parking area,
and whether there's on-site gaming.
are asked to provide general information about security,
health and safety issues. Do they have a fire detection
alarm system that is connected to a central station?
Are staff trained and tested in policies and procedures?
ask them about facility maintenance programs and background
checks, employee drug testing and staff emergency
management training,” explains Fannin.
an auditor — who is an engineer — arrives
with his own 57-page document in hand that serves
as the formal guide on the audit process. “Our
people will go out to a facility to verify the information
that was provided by the facility in their application,”
says William Wayman, Northeast regional director for
San Diego-based TVA Fire and Life Safety Inc. “We
will have a tour of the facility with a representative
— typically from the risk management or security
division — and take a look at the physical aspects
of the property — the fire protection systems,
security systems and functional equipment. We make
sure things have been maintained properly.”
auditor verifies that everything is as presented in
the initial application. He will verify codes are
met and equipment such as locks and CCTV are protecting
of the checks are as simple as making sure hotel staff
members don't publicly announce a guest's room number
while handing them a key.
encourages facilities to use technology to its best
advantage in terms of access control. Video surveillance
is more than just a guard sitting in a chair staring
at six or seven monitors for an eight-hour shift.
It must also include video alarm monitoring and detection.
includes digital recording of events, and especially
in public areas where the hotel has a liability for
slip-and-fall accidents and where there could be theft,”
hotels that pass the test, the SafePlace seal can
provide a measure of assurance to its guests. “The
requirements of the code are applied nationally,”
Fannin says. “Today, as a member of the traveling
public, you don't know what standards are in effect
where you stay. We hope to establish a baseline that
the public knows is being satisfied nation-wide if
they see this seal.”
11 may have given safety an unprecedented emphasis,
but Fannin says he began developing the SafePlace
concept more than a year ago.
lodging has provided SafePlace with an entry into
the accreditation market, Fannin says that the company
is working to extend the same format to other venues,
such as the chemical industry and academic institutions.
At this point, the service provided by SafePlace to
hotels is unique in its focus on fire and safety standards.
can use this model in just about any area where the
safety of people is the main focus,” he says.
THE RECORD ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Randy Southerland is an Atlanta-based writer and regular
contributor to Access Control & Security Systems
2003, PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc.
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