Vegas shooting puts hotel security issues in the spotlight
Friday, November 10, 2017
We have seen enough Hollywood movies to know Las Vegas casino security is difficult to fool or bypass. Yet no one had an inkling of the tragedy that was to unfold Oct. 1 when Stephen Paddock unleashed a barrage of gunfire on unsuspecting concert-goers from his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino hotel room.
Vegas hotels are armed with thousands of cameras, tracking every move that visitors and gamblers make. As the Los Angeles Times pointed out, casinos are more than the mini-cities they project; they are mini-surveillance states: "In Las Vegas, the casino is always watching."
Internal security forces monitor all movements, stay ready to dispatch response in moments, and store all footage as potential evidence. These security teams are meticulous and ruthless. Thus, their failure to anticipate and control Paddock is surprising.
It is difficult to scan the news these days without reading about terror acts. While danger lurks everywhere, not just in the hotel industry, this particular incident has had the industry sweating. What is more disconcerting is that the shooter was a guest in a five-star establishment, which he used as his hub. This the kind of hotel where we feel safe, rather than a roadside motel.
It's been more than a month since the shooting shocked the world. Now hotels are re-evaluating, and in some cases completely overhauling, their security systems. They don't want another attack like this happening or a similar threat catching them unaware.
Stringent measures like thorough scanning of guest bags are already in place. Experts are being hired to train the staff to recognize suspicious behavior just like they do in airports. Some are applying innovative strategies like using algorithms to spot patterns unusual behavior via cameras.
Domestic travelers are finding the changes difficult. International travelers, however, have encountered stricter security measures in hotels and malls worldwide. Regions like Jerusalem that have witnessed decades of violence have hotels equipped to fight poison gas, bombs and even rocket attacks.
Big or small, we should expect changes in hotel operations.
The idea of TSA-style baggage screening was suggested and implemented by some, but it has its drawbacks. Smaller hotels lack resources. Bigger hotels have too much traffic to devote their resources to such meticulous screening. And guests hate the feeling of being back in the TSA line right after they arrive from the airport.
Instead, hotels can add to their security forces, which will work as a deterrent for criminals. Training guests about exit and escape routes and where to hide during an active shooter incident are important, too. Emerging technology to identify suspects could tie in to a more integrated approach to safety.
Big hotel chains are planning and designing their future properties with stricter security in mind. Greater cooperation between hotels and law enforcement is also the need of the hour.
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