Staying Safe at the Hotel

Many travelers view their hotel in a foreign city as a safe sanctuary where nothing can happen.  While hotels – particularly good hotels that have been carefully selected – can be a good safe haven in many respects they can also be a focal point for criminal activity and other hazards so its very important not to drop your guard.

When checking in ensure that the reception desk doesn’t announce your room number to everyone in the lobby.   Well-trained staff at good hotels won’t do this — they will write the number down, usually on the paper sleeve that holds your room key.  If they do announce your room number then request another room and ask that they write the number down.

While at the reception desk maintain contact with your luggage whenever possible.  Ideally you should be in physical contact with your foot or leg so that if someone tries to move it or take it you will be immediately aware.

Don’t be afraid to ask a member of the hotel staff to escort you to your room if this makes you feel more comfortable.

On the way to your room observe the location of the nearest fire exit and count the number of doors between your room and the fire exit.  If there is a fire and you need to evacuate the hotel you may be crawling down a smoke-filled hallway and unable to see the exit sign.  You should know in which direction and how many doors you need to go to find an exit.  This only takes a minute to do and with practice becomes second nature.

After getting settled in the room you may want to go back and confirm this as well as find a secondary exit and even consider going into the fire stairwell and walking downstairs to be familiar with it.  Be cautious of opening any exit doors though as they may be alarmed.  Also be cautious that you do not get locked in the stairwell.  In some buildings only certain floors are re-entry floors and in some extreme cases there is no re-entry from the fire stairs to any floor except the street level.

When you get to the room immediately check it to be sure nobody is concealed inside.  This means the closets and wardrobe, inside the bathroom (to include the shower if there is a curtain or door), etc.

Keep the door locked when you are in the room to include using the chain or sliding bar.  Seriously consider using door stops as outlined in another post on Protective Concepts.

Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign liberally to include whenever you are in the room and most times when you go out.  Do not use the “Make up my Room” sign for maid service.  Instead call housekeeping and request service when needed.

Consider leaving the TV or radio on when you are out of the room if this is possible.  In some hotels the room key needs to be inserted into an outlet on the wall to provide power so this may be difficult to do.  It is however an option to bring an old card key from a previous stay at another hotel and use that to insert in the outlet when you leave the room.

When exiting the elevator to your floor check the hallway in both directions before walking to your room.  In some hotels the hallway may have alcoves or offsets where people can conceal themselves without being seen.  Be especially vigilant when walking down hallways of this type.   Likewise check the hallway in both directions when you exit your room.

Have your room key ready in your hand so you are not fumbling at your door when you get there.

If you see anyone loitering in the hall or behaving in a suspicious or abnormal manner do not go to your room but instead return to the lobby or another safe location.

Do not open your room to anyone claiming to be staff that you are not expecting.  Call the reception desk to verify their identity.

When you are out of your room consider using a very small piece of paper inserted between the jam and the door as a “tell” to indicate if anyone has entered your room.  This must be small enough to be unnoticed by others and artfully placed to remain undetected.

Keep a small flashlight by your bedside so you will always have access to a light source int he event of a power outage and so it is accessible if you need to use it to evacuate the hotel in the middle of the night.

Leave your clothes with valuable items such as your passport, wallet etc. in the pockets and your shoes nearby so that you can put them on rapidly should you need to get up and evacuate quickly.

Avoid using the room safe for valuables.  These safes are easily compromised, especially by staff and will be the first place someone looks if they come into your room.

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