Personal Safety for the Professional Traveler
Before you leave home on any trip for business or pleasure … double check to make sure you packed your safety and security mindset.
- did you pack SMART?
- are you a SMART passenger?
- are you a SMART hotel guest?
- hotel safety protocols
- hotel hygiene
- hotel fires and natural disasters
- are you SMART when in an elevator?
- are you street SMART?
- situational awareness
- parking lot safety
- are you a SMART traveler or are you a target?
- do you have SMART travel safety apps and websites?
Be a SMARTtraveler and avoid making yourself a TARGET!
Hotel Safety Tips
(presented during the #NSAChat on Twitter – February 3, 2015)
Safety threats to professionals when traveling within the United States and abroad are an unfortunate reality. Everyone needs to understand the dangers that exist when they are away from home so that they can be prepared since anyone can be a victim of crime. Even the most savvy business travelers fall to prey to their own complacency regarding hotel safety and personal security.
When traveling for business, most of us arrive to the lobby of our hotel feeling tired, dirty, and in a hurry to get cleaned up, get some sleep, or get to the first item on your agenda. Unfortunately, this is no time to let your guard down regardless if you are traveling with a group of people or alone.
Here are a few hotel safety tips to avoid being a target, and how to safely conduct yourself when traveling by establishing your own SMART traveler techniques.
- Always stay with your luggage.
- Request a room on floors 3 to 6. Criminals prefer lower floors for quick escape and for fire safety you don’t want to stay above the 6th floor so fire rescue can reach you.
- Try and stay on the same floor as your travel companions.
- When checking in and the front desk personnel announces your room number out loud, request to change rooms immediately.
- Electronic keys – always request two keys.
- Write down your travel companions room numbers.
- If traveling alone, request a security escort to your room.
- Once you have arrived at your floor, especially if you are alone, check the corridor (hallway) before starting your journey to your room. If there is anyone in the hallway, wait before proceeding.
- Conduct a room security check before settling in. Open door, block open with your suitcase.
- If a security escort accompanied you, never allow them into your room. Have them wait at the entry door threshold while you conduct your room check.
- Open and check all closets and storage compartments.
- Bathroom – cabinets, storage compartments, shower curtain (if applicable).
- Bed – check underneath and lift up mattress if solid frame, check all sides of bed, if there is space between it and the wall.
- Furniture – check behind and around all chairs, couch, desk, etc.
- Curtains – push the curtains against window or wall (excellent hiding place).
- Windows – locked and functioning properly.
- Sliding balcony doors – locked and functioning properly.
- Balcony – is it adjoining or secure?
- Phone – check for dial tone and functioning properly.
- Adjoining door(s) – is deadbolt engaged? Test it!
- Entry door – test the locks if they engage and function properly.
- Peephole – is there a cover plate?
Other Helpful Tips:
- If adjoining doors make you nervous and you don’t have a travel door stop, place the ironing board against the door. If it’s opened, you’ll know it!
- If the peep hole doesn’t have a cover plate, place tissue in the hole to cover it up.
- Never trust the in-room safes. They actually are not safe at all. Most hotels provide safety deposit boxes on the main floor to protect your valuables and have more liability protections.
- Place the Do Not Disturb on your room and leave it there!
- Never allow hotel staff into your room unless you are expecting them.
- When room service, bellman, maintenance or other hotel staff enter your room, always block your door open by engaging the deadbolt or swinging over the swag lock while the door is open. This prevents it from closing completely.
- Never use the room service door hangers. “Breakfast for 1” shows you are staying in your room alone and when you are expecting them.
- Allow housekeeping into your room only when you are present.
- Leave the television on (local language channel) whenever away from your room.
- Leave one light on in your room.
- Always ask for two key cards (especially if room power is controlled by key insert).
Elevator Safety Tips:
- Regardless if you are alone in the elevator or not, always try to position yourself near or in front of the elevator control panel. If attacked, you can easily reach and push as many floor buttons as possible.
- Locate the alarm button.
- Never stand at the back of the elevator. If attacked, you are trapped as your direction to escape is now blocked.
- Stand with your back against the sidewall.
- Maintain situational awareness and observe all of the passengers in elevator.
- If someone boards the elevator at the same time, allow them to select their floor first. If they hesitate and your instincts ‘kick in’ – exit immediately.
- If at anytime, someone suspicious boards the elevator, always error on the side of caution and exit as soon as possible.
- If you are feeling ‘trapped,’ start talking to yourself OUT LOUD or do anything that appears to be ‘un-normal.’ Criminals target human predictability and you acting out of the norm is not being predictable! We’re sure you’ll agree it’s better if some strangers think your are a little crazy than being a target of crime.
Hotel Room Hygiene Tips
- Remove the bedspread!
- Never place your suitcase on top of the bed cover. The wooden luggage rack isn’t much better as bed bugs like wood too. Metal luggage racks are ok. The safest place to store your suitcase is in the bathroom.
- The television remote control is the #1 most contaminated item in a hotel room. #2 and #3 are bed side table light switch and phone.
- You can sanitize the remote or place in a zip lock baggie or ice bag provided in your room.
- If the coffee maker is stored in the bathroom – DO NOT USE IT! Any other location is also questionable as who knows what the previous guest used it for and housekeeping may not have sanitized it. Best to go down to the cafe!
- Unsealed glassware may or may not have been properly cleaned. Assume it hasn’t.
- Don’t just check under your bed for safety reasons, always for sanitary reasons!
- Flip bed pillows over and check if they are dirty, hair, etc. It’s one immediate way to knowing if the bedding has been changed.
Hotel Personal Safety Gadgets
- Carry door stop (regular rubber or alarm type)
- Door Guard Alarm (hangs on door knob and alarms if door moves)
- Hotel Room Safe Lock (added protection to hotel room safes which are actually not-so-safe!)
- Portable Smoke Hood (filter type to avoid TSA travel issue)
- CO2 Travel Alarm (there are several document deaths from CO2 poisoning in hotels)
- Flashlight (or smartphone flashlight app)
- Duct tape (small roll)
- Travel and safety apps such as: Smart Traveler, HELP Call, Stay Safe, LodgeNet Mobile.