Hotels providing panic buttons for employees to increase staff safety
By Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Many properties are now providing personal panic buttons for staff to use to call for help if they find themselves in an unsafe situation.
The buttons are typically given to employees who work in guest rooms, such as housekeeping, engineering, bellhops, maintenance and room service. When a staff member feels threatened, they can activate the button and an alert is sent to management with their location so security can come to their aid. In addition to the physical protection of getting assistance, having the buttons provided to them also tell employees that management wants to know about any cases of harassment or assault.
Panic buttons come in several different formats. One popular device is a button that hangs from a chain similar to a necklace pendant. Other options include using an alert feature on tablets, smartphones or electronic devices with GPS enabled. Because the buttons must also communicate the employees’ location, devices without GPS can be used in conjunction with a location-enabled mobile device.
The buttons have gained popularity after reports of sexual harassment and assault of hospitality workers. A recent 20/20" episode featured interviews and reports from hospitality workers of sexual harassments and assaults they experienced while on the job. The episode showed that incidents happen at all types of properties, both luxury and budget, as well as with both male and female guests.
Unite Here Local 1 reported that 58 percent of hospitality workers surveyed said they have been sexually harassed by guests at least once. The most common form of harassment reported was guests opening the guest room door without any clothing. The survey also found that only one-third of the employees reported the incidents to their employer.
While many properties are moving to this security measure voluntarily, panic buttons are currently mandated at hotels in several cities. As of July 1, 2018, hotels in Chicago are required by law to provide a panic to button to anyone who enters a guest room alone, reported the Chicago Tribune. Hotels in Seattle and unionized hotels in New York City were already required to provide panic buttons.
By providing panic buttons to staff members, hotels can help increase retention of employees and protect their safety while on the job. Additionally, hotels that publicize the use of the buttons can also reduce incidents from occurring because guests know they will be reported to the proper authorities.