So if you’re one of the lucky ones going down to New Orleans to cheer on your team in the Super Bowl, or just traveling with the family, choosing a hotel is serious business. This is not the time to be lazy about safety.
Prepare: Prepare before the trip and select a hotel room with safety in mind. Choose hotels without ground floor windows and doors open to the outside; an interior hallway is a safer option. Verify that the hotel uses electronic locks whose combinations change with each new guest. The door to the room should also have a dead bolt and a peephole.
Ask the hotel specifically what type of fire alarm system is installed. Does it include fire sprinklers and smoke detectors in every room and hallway, and is it connected to a command center that performs remote fire alarm inspection?
Ensure that you can dial outside numbers from the phone in your room. When you’re booking your reservation, ask the customer service agent if the windows have locks and if the hallways, parking garage/parking lot and grounds are well lit. Also ask if there is a parking garage elevator; elevators are safer if they take guests to the lobby rather than directly to guest floors.
You should also verify that the hotel has security staff available to escort guests to rooms and the parking garage, whenever requested. When traveling overseas, contact the US Embassy to find out the areas you should avoid.
Requesting a Room: Ask for a room no higher than the 6th floor; fire department ladders do not always reach above this level. Avoid staying in a ground floor room directly off the parking lot. Rooms closest to the elevator are pegged as safer bets, even if they tend to be a bit noisier.
On Arrival: Stay with your luggage, purse and other belongings at all times. When checking in, ask the front desk personnel not to announce your room number, sign only your last name and the first initial, and don’t leave your credit card lying on top of the check-in counter.
Detective Coffey offers a helpful tip: when you check in, grab two hotel business cards or two matchbooks. Keep one with you and one beside the phone so you always have access to the hotel’s name, address and phone number, for occasions such as when you’re taking a taxi.
When Entering the Room: Examine the lock from both the inside and the outside to ensure it looks sturdy and is properly installed. Test all the locks in the room, including the main lock on the door, window locks, and any locks on adjoining doors. Look for fire safety information, usually on the back of the door, and be sure you understand where the nearest exit is as well as the location of fire extinguishers and the pull box.
While in the Room: Keep the door locked, including the deadbolt. Never leave the balcony door open when you’re sleeping. Keep a flashlight and the room key by the bed at all times in case you need to quickly evacuate. Never allow a stranger in your room, even if he claims to be a hotel employee; first call the desk and verify the individual’s identity.
Leaving the Room: Place any valuables you leave in the room in the safe. If you have items too large to fit into the room safe, ask an employees at the front desk if the hotel has larger guest safes available for use. Zip luggage shut and hide it under the bed or in a dresser. Lock all doors and windows before leaving your room.
Turn on a radio or the TV, and leave a light on to fake the appearance someone is in the room. Another useful tip: always keep the “Do Not Disturb” sign out to make it seem as though someone is in the room. If you need your room cleaned, call housekeeping, but request the housekeeper leave the sign on the door.
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