Tip of the Month by John Lawrence
Taking Steps to Help Prevent Suicides in Hotels While working on the new “Tip of the Month,” I was talking to my wife about a hotel I once worked with in Idaho.
A distraught man checked into the hotel and unfortunately the night did not end well. I later found that he had been turned away from another nearby hotel. The desk clerk at the first hotel sensed the man was psychologically unfit to stay at their hotel. My wife said, “Well, that was profiling.” Yes it was, but by doing so their hotel was spared from a tragic incident.
Unfortunately, people will often choose a hotel to end their own lives. Once or twice a month we are called to clean up after a bio-hazard issue (a biological or chemical substance orsituation that is dangerous to human beings and the environment). I found the article below that gives good advice on this subjecthttp://lodgingmagazine.com/
Motels and hotels—from modest rooms to the most luxurious suites—are among the “lethal locations” described by suicide researcher Steven Stack, Ph.D., of Wayne State University, Detroit. “Lethal locations include any place, such as a hotel room, where there is no one around—like a loved one—to intervene and stop a suicide,” he explains. Even a resort full of vacationers, a high-rise bustling with business travelers, or a motel filled with weekend holiday-makers does not discourage a deadly sense of despair hidden behind a single locked door.
Neal Smither, owner of Crime Scene Cleaners Inc. states that; "While most large hotel chains have protocols in place for handling suicides, smaller hotels often do not. They would be wise to take a lesson from their larger counterpart".
Efi Patt is a risk management consultant at iJet, a global operational, travel, risk management, and intelligence company that handles about 250 hotel assessments and risk audits every year. “When I look at security procedures and crisis management, I want to see how hotels balance between security and preventing suicide and other events. Hotels must take into account fire regulations and other safety procedures while maintaining a welcoming and open environment for the public. After all, this is the hospitality business. It’s a juggling act.”
So while it might seem both obvious and suicide-preventative to lock exits to high ledges or seal doors to some hallways, it may not be allowable under certain fire and safety codes.
What, then, can a hotel really do to prevent the tragedy of suicide?
“Plenty,” Patt says. “I’m talking about early detection of potentially problematic guests. They might come without a reservation, without luggage, and pay in cash; that’s a clear red flag of someone who might have an immediate agenda—it could be suicide. Watch for guests displaying signs of agitation or extreme nervousness. If something seems amiss with how guests interact, try to communicate with them and draw out more information—something important might surface.” (See “Signs of Concern” above for more indications of trouble.)
Asked for his top suicide prevention strategy, Callaghan suggests a physical alteration to hotel properties. “Make sure windows only open four inches, wide enough to allow a breath of fresh air but not wide enough for someone to jump out,” he says. “That would be my No. 1 tip.”
Patt also recommends blocking access to rooftops, machinery rooms, and storage areas of chemicals or sharps of any type. “Common sense should be the driver,” he says, reminding that evacuation routes and emergency stairwells must remain open. As for atrium safety, some hotels are installing sheer netting that does not restrict the view but does support the weight of a falling body.
Overall situational awareness is the key to prevention, Patt says. “There must be a mechanism within hotels for staff to recognize signs of distress or problems and report them to central positions—security manager, office manager, general manager. If several signs merit concern about a guest, call in the authorities. It should be a requirement to take note of potential danger and take action. A hotel’s main focus must be looking after the well-being of the guest—individually and collectively—not just the property.”
Whether for the purpose of industry excellence or humanitarian interest, properties must sharpen their skills at preventing and dealing with tragic events on site. In the end, it is not only a hallmark of good business and an assurance for optimum guest experience but also a strategy for preserving the most precious of commodities—life.