– by Tom Hempel
As hoteliers focus on Employee Safety Devices, (ESDs) as they are now being endorsed by the American Hotel and Lodging Association, they are becoming increasingly accepted as a necessary requirement for hotel staff workers who typically work in hotel rooms alone. However, with the wide choice of ESDs now available on the market, which system to use has become key in ensuring their safety.
Here are the top 5 considerations when selecting the right ESD for your hotel employees.
1. Audible Alert Devices vs. Real-Time Location IoT Devices
Audible Alert Devices – While good personal alert devices for open spaces, audible alert devices are not a practical security measure for hotel workers, as the primary audible alert doesn’t deliver real-time location information to staff who could be many floors away. Another challenge with audible alert devices is that they’re also susceptible to “alarm fatigue” a phenomenon that causes audible alerts to become annoying or ignored altogether (such as car alarm going off in a crowded parking garage).
Real-Time Location IoT-Based Devices – These are hardware/software combined solutions that are more robust than their singular counterparts. They leverage a number of different technologies to support employees and are customizable (in some cases) to meet city and union regulations and compliance. Most ESD solutions in this category offer stand-alone panic button devices that can be easily deployed and worn comfortably by staff members and when activated will communicate accurate location information directly to designated hotel staff and security in case of an emergency.
2. Real-Time Location Accuracy
Accurate Real-Time location information is important in instances where seconds count. An ESD that provides accurate location information and updated location information to a mobile application will provide hotel staff responders with the necessary tools to provide the highest level of response and resolution times. ESD solutions that can only provide a general “zone” may not meet city and union standards and could not be effective if someone is locked in a room.
3. Dependability and Reliability
Your ESD solution must be dependable and reliable as your employee’s safety depends on it. Consequently, it should provide real-time diagnostics and system warning alerts to ensure that the system is always working. If the infrastructure or device fails or is beginning to fail (i.e. battery life) then the ESD must be able to provide proactive methods to make sure these devices are replaced. Although no solution is 100% reliable, a proven solution with dependable design and system warnings can achieve a dependable and reliable rating.
4. Usability / Practicality
Technology that isn’t easy to use, or prevents staff members from performing normal activities, is an ineffective safety solution. Please make sure that the ESD is designed for use in a hospitality environment which includes some of the following characteristics: simple one-button activation, long 2-3 battery life, water-resistant, designed for comfort, can be worn in a way that does not disrupt daily activities.
5. Which Underlying Technology?
The underlying technology is a vital consideration and can potentially prove a costly decision. Here are three leading technologies widely deployed in hospitality environments and how they differ.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) – BLE beacon panic buttons can use a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies to track exact employee locations when a safety button is activated and provide real-time updates if they move to another area of the property. These ESD solutions are typically a more affordable option mostly because they require little additional hardware outside of the actual stand-alone safety button with no rewiring or additional infrastructure. These solutions can also be deployed in typically a few days with minimal interruption to guests or the need to take rooms out of service.
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) – RFID panic button solutions offer accurate location of workers during emergencies in actual room locations, but these solutions can be cost-prohibitive to deploy as they require on-site infrastructure like new cabling infrastructure, server installation and scheduled downtime for installation. RFID solutions can also be cost-prohibitive if a hotel desires coverage to most areas of their property due to the additional infrastructure requirements.
Ultrasonic Technology – is another technology option that does provide an accurate location of staff in case of emergency, but also carries higher costs for similar reasons due to infrastructure requirements like cabling and an on-site server. The challenge for hotels is that to achieve full coverage of all rooms and properties, it requires an extensive investment in equipment and installation. Additionally, the rechargeable batteries for these solutions require charging every device one to four weeks, which may be more maintenance than some hotels and employees prefer.
Time to Make a Choice
With the five major hotel brands (Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Wyndham, IHG) announcing their public commitment by making the *FIVE STAR PROMISE* – that ESDs for hotel staff working alone will be deployed nation-wide by 2020, this need to select the right ESD for your property is a top priority. This movement is being led to protect vulnerable hotel employees from dangerous harassment, but also arming employees with the right solution that empowers them, makes them feel safe and provides a method to respond faster to numerous property issues such as an active crime, suspicious activity, sexual harassment, assault, or medical emergencies. And because many of these technologies can be customized to fit specific needs, there will be a safety button technology solution that will fulfill any service union contract or city ordinance obligations you may have.