Hotel Online  Special Report



Emergency Management, Safety and Security Cannot be
Relegated Only to a Few, but Require Comprehensive Organizational Involvement


by Claire Belilos, December 2003

Vancouver, B.C. December 23, 2003 - Until recently, managers and property owners in western democracies took it easy in matters of safety, security, and emergency management, economizing in the process.  Following 9/11 and its aftermath, they can no longer afford this luxury.  Business is “not” run as usual.  A scramble to correct the situation leads many to adopt stop-gap measures, appointing only a limited number of managers and employees to provide some sort of safety measures, resulting in dangerous and misleading assumptions of effective organization and control. Incomplete planning and organization can cost many lives and lead to business loss. 

Managing emergencies and providing safety and security to guests, customers, employees, owners, and the property itself, requires informed and thorough planning and organization across the board, with the active involvement of all departments and employees.  This responsibility cannot be relegated to only a few people in the organization.  And these subjects cannot be considered as a “separate” field, but become an integral part of all operational functions.

A Safety and Security Committee must be selected (appointed or elected by the management team), based on the ability of its members to plan, communicate, train, coordinate, delegate, implement,  supervise, and control the many aspects related to the prevention and management of safety, security and emergency situations pertinent to the organization. 

This committee must be an  active and dynamic force representing various operational departments (or divisions).  Appointment to the committee should be based on knowhow,  experience, and the ability to coordinate, implement and train, rather than rank. Rank-and-file and supervisory levels often make part of such committees.

The chairperson (and vice-chair) of the committee establish direct contact with national (federal) and local government authorities, obtain updated regulations and information, and obtain assistance and guidance from these authorities who are always glad to provide it.  For example, they can invite the fire department to speak to different departments about fire hazards and prevention, or invite the police department to provide training and guidance on matters of security. Government authorities gladly give training material such as videos, posters, and print material for distribution. 

A regular schedule is set for training by outsiders and “in house” continuous training for all departments. Sporadic spot checks and drills are conducted.

The committee plans ahead for emergencies, such as fire outbreaks or other manmade or natural disasters, makes sure specific duties are assigned, such as immediate reporting to higher management, the security officer in charge, local authorities (such as the fire brigade).  Supervisors and employees receive clear instructions and training on how to alert and rescue  customers, guests, and visitors, including body count after evacuation, as well as how to alert other departments and colleagues.   The key concern in all cases of disaster is to avoid panic.  Sometimes more lives are lost due to panic than due to the emergency itself.

A fail-proof  communications network is set up, decided upon, different departments and individuals are assigned roles with clearly written explanations of, and discussions on, duties to perform in such events. People are taught to constantly keep aware of risks and hazards, and are  trained on how to proceed, including providing feedback to the committee who can then take corrective measures.

The most important point to remember when organizing for emergency handling, safety and security, is that this is not the work of a few but an overall organizational effort.

Though basic principles are the same, actual planning and organization differ from one organization to the other, depending upon its setup, nature, type of clientele, type of service, staffing, management and employee profiles. 

All Rights Reserved - Copyright Claire Belilos

The above guideline was written based on actual successful experience and in no way constitutes liability on the part of CHIC Hospitality Consulting Services or its owner.


Claire Belilos
CHIC Hospitality Consulting Services
Also See: Safety & Security Issues Surrounding MOD Programs / Aug 2002
Crisis Management: Could You Cope if the Unthinkable Happened / HOTEL Asia Pacific / June 2003

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