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Volume 27, Issue 3

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Safety Security and Loss Prevention During Hospitality Emergencies

Written by  Ahmad Rasmi AlBattat & Ahmad Puad Mat Som September 2, 2014

Emergency management plays a significant role in the hospitality industry. Providing the highest levels of safety standards and security ensures good marketing for the hotels by preventing an accident before it becomes a major issue causing loss of life and property. By using secondary data this study investigates the impacts of emergency management, safety and security systems on loss prevention in the hotel industry. This study aims to explain the safety and security systems, information security used by hotels, and the importance of an updated emergency plan (checklist) when dealing with an actual risk. The results of this study explain that using an effective information system and being well prepared for emergencies could prevent or minimize loss for the hotels. An effective system would also forecast any possible accidents. The importance of continuous emergency training for the employees is also emphasized. Finally, a focus on good marketing tools for hotels to create a safe environment for the guests and meeting planners is included.

INTRODUCTION

The hospitality industry, as a year round industry, is vulnerable to both internal and external emergencies. Crisis has become an important part of the hospitality industry, and often directly affects the hospitality organizations and their stability (Henderson, 2002). Henderson and Ng (2004) argued that tourism and hospitality activities can be readily affected by internal and external hazards which affect the organization directly. Considering the inseparability of the employee and the guest as a part of the hospitality product, these hazards affect the organization as a whole. Many practitioners study the effect of emergency management on the hospitality industry. Kim et al. (2005) study its effect on the hotels, while Tse et al. (2006) examine its reflection on the restaurants, other scholars examine the effect of emergencies on airlines (Henderson, 2008), and travel agents (Lovelock, 2003). Haddow and Bullock (2006) mentioned that emergency management is very important to understand how to avoid risks.

Emergency management can be defined as the ability to avoid risks and accurately deal with hazards. It’s become the most important issue in the hospitality business. Emergency preparedness should be a major part of the hospitality managers’ duties; they must work side by side with other tourism organizations to be prepared well to assist and save the lives of the tourist before, during and after the catastrophic events, and should adopt an updated effective emergency plan. Faulkner (2001) argued that the characteristics of a crisis couldn’t be identified before the events happens, but managers can minimize the effect of such emergencies by effective planning based on continuous efforts.

Effective planning and communication in the pre-event stage should be applied, validated and integrated with all the industry stakeholders and the governmental agencies. The crisis can directly affect the destination’s image and increase the risk of losing tourists. Therefore, effective planning should not be based on regular short-term planning but should exceed this to deal with hazards. The Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA) in 2003 suggested a four-phase model to plan for the crisis and to deal with the emergencies; this model proposed reduction, readiness, response, and recovery phases to deal with the crisis. A written emergency preparedness plan should be updated regularly, and a direct communication system should be employed to respond to and overcome the crisis. The significant role of the media, information, and the social media should be reviewed and evaluated continuously to insure the valuable flow of information and to avoid a negative impact on the destination and transmit a positive image.

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

International hospitality in recent years had experienced multiple unusual crises, risks, and disasters, causing negative impacts not only for the hospitality players, but also for the tourists and the local community. Furthermore, these impacts have continued both temporarily and in the long-term, leaving the industry with a lack of preparedness and emergency plans.

Safety and security are classified as the most important factors in the hospitality industry. Pizam et al., (1997) argued that safety and security are the most important factors to the tourist, and the first in mind when planning to travel. Furthermore, emergencies can occur suddenly in hotels. So, safety is one of the most important issues to protect the guests from hazards. Reisinger and Movando (2005) mentioned that it's very difficult to develop hospitality activities in high-risk destinations. Also, it's very hard to retain guests in high crime countries. Safety is a term which relates to protecting guests and staff within the hotel from the potential hazards, injury, and death by dealing with dangerous materials and different kinds of accidents. In contrast, security regards the protection of property from criminal accidents and terrorist activities.

Hotel management should be aware of the responsibility of the guests' safety inside the property. Emergency systems should be installed to ensure the safety and protection from fires and other hazards by continuously checking the emergency plan, fire alarm system, fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, emergency lights, smoke and heat detectors, employee training, and cooperation with the government agencies. Furthermore, it is important to consider the proper dress for the security staff to be in line with the hospitality management philosophy.

The literature on emergency management has highlighted the significance of having an emergency plan and being prepared for any possible hazards. Still, there is little literature on emergency preparedness and emergency management in the hospitality industry. Tew et al. (2008) argued that 56 percent of the hospitality managers in Toronto, Canada, have an emergency plan but very few detailed plans were provided. There is a practical absence of studies on the emergency management preparedness in the hospitality industry, and the need to study the emergency management in different nations is highly important.

Hotels should issue a check-list concerning a hotel’s vulnerability to emergencies caused by natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis) or man-made crises (terrorist attacks, explosions, fires, spill, food poisoning). This checklist should contain plenty of questions regarding the potential risks, emergency procedures, evacuation, training, preparedness, and management style during the crisis. Staff should receive proper continuous training to prepare them for any upcoming hazards, ensuring the maximum level of safety and security of the hotel and the guests. A hotel may also help and support the employees' families during the response and recovery stages as a kind of social responsibility.

LOSS PREVENTION

The efficient loss prevention approach will increase the efforts on loss prevention programs to reduce losses. Safety and security measures gain a great deal from the practitioners' efforts. Hospitality stakeholders focus on the safety and security more than in the past which gives the emergency management preparedness the opportunity to become a marketing tool more than a concern, regarding the importance of security to the hotel guests and the implementation of security surveillance to protect their lives.

A large number of hazards have affected the hospitality industry in recent years such as 9/11, Avian Flu (1997,1999,2001), SARS 2002-2003, the Iraqi war in 2003, the Tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Amman Bombing in 2005, the London Bombing in 2005, and the Arab Spring Revolution 2010. The hospitality industry has a special vulnerability to natural or man-made hazards and needs an updated plan for surveillance and emergency (Henderson, 2005). Green et al. (2004) study the effect of emergencies on restaurants. while Henderson (2003) examined emergencies in airlines. Other practitioners have studied the effects in the hotels.

The effective usage of safety surveillance such as closed circuit television (CCTV), electric emergency generators, body guards, fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, emergency lights will maintain the security procedures adopted by the hotels to ensure their guests' safety, and updated emergency plans to confirm the emergency preparedness and effective planning to overcome the potential risks. Hospitality may use safety and security as factor to draw in customers and highlight it in their marketing activities.

Many practitioners imply that regarding the technology evolution in the last decade, Information Technology has become a fundamental part of the hospitality industry, such as: management, reservation, reception, house keeping, maintenance, public relations, and the Internet network and access to the internet in all the hotel sections. Hotels must secure their network to protect the hotel operations and guests' data and records. Meyers and Mills (2005) asserted that using biometric technologies could ensure the hotel security and increase the effectiveness of hotel information systems. This will reduce the costs, improve management of the employee and guest activities, and improve the ability to recognize the criminal activities.

Tourism as a worldwide industry has become susceptible to epidemics movements, with a potential to facilitative the transmission of an epidemic from one destination to another. A clear, strong message must be prepared to ensure the awareness between the tourists and the service providers. This will transmit a positive image: hospitality may gain a lot by using its safety and security as a marketing tool to attract more tourists to the destination. Furthermore, the role of media is important. Information technology and social media must be evaluated annually to provide a positive information to prevent negative issues and to enhance the destination’s marketing attractiveness. Tourists seek safety especially in the recovery stage; tourists will consider security as the highest priority in their choice.

METHOD

This study seeks to review the existing literature on hospitality preparedness management and loss prevention. It proposes emergency models and a theoretical framework explaining the relationship between emergency preparedness and loss prevention in the hospitality industry (Fig. 1). To enrich the discussion, the results of previous studies have been used. This is a conceptual paper using secondary data from books and published journals to interpret the existing concepts.

Figure1

FINDINGS

Safety and security are two of the most important things in the overall tourist experience. which ensures the preparedness and prevention from loss or danger to human life and properties. In regards to being prepared for the next disaster, risk management should be considered and the following four elements should be controlled to evaluate the risk level: Hazard, Exposure, Location, and Vulnerability. This element may present different results when joined with other elements. Thence, it's better to study the potential effect and loss of specific disasters.

In the literature, researchers proposed different models to deal with disaster and crisis events, in order to prevent the hazards and risks of such events on the tourism and hospitality industry. Evans and Elphick (2005) proposed two crisis typologies when dealing with emergencies: the "Cobra" and "Python" typologies (see Fig. 2). A Cobra typology relates to a sudden emergency such as the Bali bombing or 9/11, which particularly leads to a defensive response, while a Python typology is related to a repeated disaster affects the organizations. It is necessary to enforce a multi-level emergency preparedness plan in order to reduce the potential effects from this phenomenon.

Figure2

According to Fink (1986) emergency management should start before the disaster happens and affects the hospitality industry. Crisis management could be divided into four stages: prodormal, acute, chronic, and crisis resolution stages. In his model, Fink (1986) asserted that early warning signals for even a repeated crisis can be difficult to recognize (Fig. 3). Crises start to cause damage and losses when the organization moves from the prodormal to the acute stage, the degree of losses depending on the preparedness level and the effectiveness dealing with the emergencies. In contrast, the chronic stage allows the organization to recover from the disaster and learn from the strengths and weaknesses in the emergency response plan.

Figure3

Roberts (1994) in his model explained four stages of the crisis management. The pre-event stage is where the efforts to mitigate the effects of and to be prepared for the potential disaster, while in the emergency phase the disaster happens and actions will be taken to rescue and save people and properties (Fig. 4). The Intermediate phase occurs when the organization provides the short-term needs to restore essential services and overcome issues as quickly as possible. Finally, the long-term phase is where the repair of infrastructure, the application of long-term strategies, and the enhancement of any shortages in the emergency plan occur to prepare for the next disaster.

Figure4

Scholars consider the Faulkner Disaster Management framework as one of the most effective frameworks to deal with emergencies. Falukner (2001) identifies six phases in his model (Fig. 5): pre-event; prodormal; emergency; intermediate; long-term; and resolution. The pre-event stage is quite enough to prevent and mitigate damages. The prodormal phase occurs when disaster avoidance is no longer possible, and it is necessary to activate a contingency plan, with plenty of information and communication which are very important in this stage. The efforts to save lives and protect properties during the disaster occur in the emergency phase. The primitive need for help and to evacuate the human losses and injured people will appear in the intermediate phase. In the long-term phase, the efforts focus on the preparedness, identifying and improving weaknesses and bridging the gaps to learn from the crisis. Finally in the resolution phase the hospitality industry learns the lesson and validates and improves the plans to be prepared for the next disaster.

Figure 5

CONCLUSION

The hospitality industry is one of the most vulnerable industries to crises. Crises have become more frequent and complex than before, affecting the hospitality industry and other related activities. So, it is better to be prepared well to mitigate and minimize the potential effects of the crisis, whether it is natural or man-made. There is no doubt that safety and security are two of the most important issues for the guests, even with a low price as mentioned by Rittichainuwat (2005), who asserted that simply the fact that a destination is low-cost couldn't motivate tourists to visit hazardous places. Good relations with the media transmit a clear message and avoid ambiguity. Organizations should establish cross roll between the media and government authorities to avoid unnecessary information and fear. Preparedness and an updated emergency plan with managers' awareness will help the hospitality industry to provide the necessary resources, as well as effective training to avoid or minimize risks. Safety surveillance and security systems are very important to save guests' lives and hospitality properties. These factors can also be used as a marketing tool for guests and meeting planners. Finally, it's very important to understand the crisis emergency frameworks to mitigate effects and be well prepared before the crisis strike, and furthermore, to minimize losses during evacuation when the disaster happens.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The authors would like to extend their appreciation to the Universiti Sains Malaysia for the Research University Grant under the Sustainable Tourism Research Cluster entitled "Tourism Planning" [Grant No. 1001/PTS/8660013] which made this study and paper possible.

About the Authors ...

AlBattat Ahmad is Ph.D candidate in hospitality emergency management at University Sains Malaysia (USM), and Researcher at Sustainable Tourism Research Cluster (STRC), Pulau Pinang, Malaysia.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ahmad Puad Mat Som is an Associate Professor in Tourism at the School of Housing, Building and Planning, Universiti Sains Malaysia.