This month, the front lines of the hospitality safety button movement have shifted to New Jersey as the latest community facing a legislative deadline for compliance. How ready are the Garden State’s hoteliers for meeting the new state safety mandate, and what are the resources they’re drawing on for help? We recently spent some time with TraknProtect’s Parminder Batra for her view on this year’s rising wave of safety button legislation, the progress hoteliers are making so far, and where it yet has to go.
The offices of TraknProtect are bustling with activity. The building’s walls, decorated with countless to-do lists, installation instructions, and a smattering of the staff’s favorite sayings and motivational inspirations, echo with a dozen conference calls and training sessions. In many ways behaving like the quintessential Chicago tech startup, looking around it’s easy to see that TraknProtect has something of a deeper purpose. There’s a sense of urgency about the place, of a mission needing to be fulfilled, of highly professional dedication to the cause of improving safety in hospitality.
“We’re just not in the business of selling safety buttons off the shelf.”
In that respect, TraknProtect’s reach is considerable; in the shipping department, equipment packages are being prepared for destinations as exotic as Paris, Taipei, Singapore, although when I find her in her office, somewhere in the center of it all, it’s much closer to home that CEO Parminder Batra is focusing. “New Jersey,” she says simply. “It’s really the concentration of this latest round of safety button legislation.” It’s not hard to see why.
While New Jersey has become the new front line in the rising tide of hotel employee legislation, it also represents a very different market than those communities that currently have been subject to city mandates or union agreements. Unlike Chicago, Seattle, New York or Miami Beach, the Garden State represents a broad swath of property types, from the commercial clusters of the Hudson River, sweeping through central Jersey with its academic hubs around New Brunswick and Princeton, to the casinos of Atlantic City and boardwalk ocean hotels underpinning the state’s particularly diverse $43 billion tourism industry.
“There’s no such thing as a standard hotel with a standard installation,” Batra opines, “and because of its diversity of property types, New Jersey’s property owners are especially appreciative of what we bring to the table – regarding each hotel individually, with its own challenges and its own safety ambitions,” she says, adding, “We’re just not in the business of selling safety buttons off the shelf.”
…no matter how large or sophisticated a hotel’s operation might be, the safety button legislation is an extra consideration that can take time and resources…
Even so, New Jersey’s safety button legislation has not been without controversy, with the wording of State Bill S-2986 suggesting equally a compliance deadline date of either December 1st or January 1st of 2020. “Yes, I think issues like that go some way to explaining why so many hoteliers have difficulty with safety button legislation,” Batra agrees. “In practically every hotel community we’ve seen, there’s just not a lot of clear communication about what the time frame is, exactly what equipment needs to be installed, and even what the penalties for non-compliance might be and whether they will be enforced.” She points to many examples such as when similar legislation was introduced in Miami Beach, some hoteliers believed whistles would meet the city’s requirement for a safety button, while in Chicago, when that city’s ordinance was passed, most subsequent violations were not for non-provision of safety buttons, but for failure to post the hotel’s sexual harassment policies in different language formats.
“I have a lot of sympathy for our customers,” Batra says, “There are so many moving parts to this, and no matter how large or sophisticated a hotel’s operation might be, the safety button legislation is an extra consideration that can take time and resources away from the main focus of running a successful business,” she acknowledges. It’s why TraknProtect, with its greater mission in mind, is now helping New Jersey’s hoteliers to be ready for the coming deadline with a system that not only meets and exceeds the state legislative requirements but also supports the customer’s own understanding of an improved safety environment for employees and guests alike. “If we can make one hotel employee feel better, and safer, about going to work tomorrow then we know we’ve had a good day,” she says, pausing to watch the staff activity outside her office. “But if we can help shift the safety culture of an entire industry…then wouldn’t that be so worth it?”