How prepared are you for an emergency?

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Project Argus for hotels event.

Project Argus Hotels is a counter terrorism training workshop designed by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office and the Hotel Industry and provides information and advice to assist you in planning for and dealing with a terrorist or other catastrophic event.  The training is targeted at General/Duty Managers, Chief Engineers, Restaurant Managers, House Keeping Managers and their deputies.

Although the focus is around minimising the risk and the handling of terrorist attacks I felt there were many salient points covered during the session which would make generally good practice for any hotel, restaurant, bar or conference centre.

We all put systems in place for cleaning, cashing up, what to do in the event of fire, but how many of us go beyond the fire evacuation procedure? Would any of us know what do or have the resources in place to deal with something such as an explosion (terrorist or otherwise), a serious road accident outside the premises, a robbery, or even a power cut at seven o’clock on a busy February morning. (We heard from one hotel manager who had experiences an armed robbery at the end of a busy Saturday night – scary stuff!)

Okay, I admit that these might all call that different actions, but there were a number of ways we can prepare for these events which at the very least might give you a bit less stress should they occur, and may help to minimise the impact on our customers.

Obviously I am far from qualified to write about counter terrorism, but here are some of the things I picked out from the workshop that could be of benefit to any site in an emergency situation.

Emergency kit/grab bag(s)

Keep an emergency kit or grab bag behind reception, or somewhere where it can be accessed by anyone at any time in an emergency and can be found easily even if you have no lighting. Contents of the bag might include such things as:

  • Windup radio (unless it regularly used batteries may go flat or corrode)
  • Torch (windup)
  • Bottled water
  • High visibility jacket
  • Space blanket

Incident management plan

This might include such sections as:

  • Roles and responsibilities detailing specific tasks for team members
  • Emergency contacts list
  • Non emergency contact numbers e.g. local police station
  • Utility Companies
  • Suppliers who may assist
  • Key staff
  • Business partners

Staff training

It’s one thing having procedures written down but staff need to know the procedures: how to raise the alarm if necessary, who to contact first, where information and emergency resources can be found. Your guests or customers will look to you and your team for direction and information.

As with your fire drill, run refresher training on a regular basis.

The aftershock

Depending on the circumstances be prepared for:

  • Staff absenteeism through injury or shock
  • Is there a need for counselling (I have first hand experience here from a near fatal accident when a member of our team tried to prevent a car theft from the car park – several people – myself included were stunned by the event. The KP in question was off for 12 months, and was very lucky to have pulled through.)
  • Reputation – word travels fast, so how you handle the event can have an impact on your reputation as an employer, as well as with customers and suppliers
  • Communicate after the event with anyone who may be affected e.g. suppliers, future bookings, etc

Prevention is better than cure

  • Be vigilant – report anything suspicious, and take staff or customers’ reports seriously
  • Don’t invite crime by sloppy security or poor asset management
  • Have set security procedures in place which might include checking of identity cards for maintenance contractors, records of vehicle registration numbers of suppliers, keeping unoccupied offices and rooms, and unattended entrances locked, tamper proof seals on maintenance hatches, keeping surveillance views clear from barriers and vegetation
  • Good housekeeping as well as improving the appearance of premises, reduces the risk of accidents, fire and opportunities for placing suspicious items, so helping to cut down on false alarms and hoaxes

Contact your local police force and ask for the Counter Terrorism Security Officer for more information.

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