IN THE WAKE of October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, some hotel chains are revisiting their “Do Not Disturb” policies to allow staff to check rooms on which the signs have hung for two or more days. Others are implementing “panic buttons” for housekeeping staff, primarily to defend against sexual assault, and California lawmakers have proposed legislation to mandate the devices.
Several hotels on the Vegas strip reviewed their security and made changes in the days following the Oct. 1 shootings, in which gunman Stephen Paddock killed 58 people at an outdoor concert by firing with an automatic rifle from the window in his room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. According to reports, Paddock hid an arsenal in his room with a “Do Not Disturb” sign dissuading intrusion from housekeeping.
The Orleans Hotel and Casino was one of the Las Vegas hotels to change its policy on how to treat Do Not Disturb signs left on guests’ rooms for an unusually long time. “Under the revised policy, we will conduct a safety and welfare check on a room after a Do Not Disturb tag has been in place for two consecutive days,” said David Strow, vice president for corporate communications for Boyd Gaming Corp., The Orleans’ parent company. “All guests are advised of this policy upon check-in.”
That policy applies to all 24 Boyd Gaming properties across the country, Strow said. He would not discuss other security measures taken in relation to the shootings.
“As you might imagine, we conducted a comprehensive review of our security procedures following Oct. 1, and made adjustments as necessary,” Strow said. “However, we are not discussing any specific changes we might have made as we do not want to compromise the effectiveness of those measures.”
Hilton Worldwide also changed its Do Not Disturb policies in November to “help properties protect guest privacy, but also manage suspicious activity and any concerns about a guest’s welfare,” according to an official statement. However, the company’s spokeswoman Meg Ryan did not specifically connect the change to the Las Vegas massacre.
“Hilton regularly reviews its policies and procedures,” Ryan said. “We have always had internal Do Not Disturb guidance for our managed properties, and with guest privacy and well-being a top priority, in November we updated our Do Not Disturb policy to provide additional guidance to team members on how manage extended use of Do Not Disturb signs by our guests.”
Under that new policy, Hilton staff are advised to notify a security or duty manager if a Do Not Disturb sign is left on a door for more than 24 consecutive hours. “We do not require visits to every hotel room every 24 hours,” Ryan said. “Individual circumstances may dictate the extension of a DND at the hotel’s discretion. This revision is not linked to a specific event.”
Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando, Florida, have changed its Do Not Disturb signs to “room occupied,” according to The New York Times. Hotel employees at the Polynesian Village Resort, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower now are required to enter every room every 24 hours, The Times report said.
“The hotel and its staff reserve the right to enter your room for any purposes including, but not limited to, performing maintenance and repairs or checking on the safety and security of guests and property,” is a statement included in Disney’s updated guest information pack, according to The Times.
Another security precaution growing in popularity among hotels involves providing housekeeping staff with “panic buttons,” according to Fortune magazine. The electronic buttons are meant to protect them from violent assaults and sexual harassment.
In California, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, and Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, have proposed legislation to require hotels to provide the buttons, according to a news release from Muratsuchi.
The hotel maid “panic button” bill also requires hotels to record any accusations of violence and harassment by guests and maintain a list of those accusations for five years. The hotel would also be required to decline service for three years to guests accused of those crimes (with false reports being punishable by perjury charges). After those three years, hotel employees would be warned if they are going to work alone in a room of a guest who has been on the list.
“Hotel employees deserve to feel safe when they are doing their job,” Muratsuchi said. “We have heard much about the danger for hotel maids, who often work in situations that put them at risk of sexual assault or harassment. This would be an important step in keeping those employees safe from harm.”
Seattle and Chicago have passed similar laws, according to CNBC, and Long Beach, California, had considered but rejected a panic button ordinance last year. The proposal of the California laws follow recent wide scale sexual assault and harassment charges lodged against celebrities, starting with film producer Harvey Weinstein, according to the CNBC report.