Managers and owners have specific needs

As a result of numerous lawsuits filed against hotel and resort owners in the 1980s through the 1990s, the industry appears to be one step ahead of many others in the development of systems and procedures designed to protect guests and their personal property as well as owners who may have inadvertently hired unscrupulous employees. Many of the lawsuits followed the loss of lives and property in fires, burglaries, construction failures and personal attacks on guests.

As a result, a savvy electrical contractor may be able to swing contracts his or her way by bringing to the table a high level of information technology expertise as well as a willingness to be a team player.

Having a keen insight into the facility and listening to the customer is the first step. Pat Murphy, director of Loss Prevention Services for Marriott International, Washington, D.C., said it is wrong to assume all electrical contractors are security experts.

“What may seem dumb to some may be the product of a well-thought-out design for a specific reason or situation,” Murphy said. “We were recently called to a site where the project manager and electrical contractor were modifying our DVD system for the purpose of providing ‘value’ engineering.”

Ask questions first

The manager and contractor believed they were saving the customer money and decided to eliminate a camera without fully understanding the design—in this case, replacing a $12,000 fixed camera with a $400 unit that rotated 360 degrees. However, rather than providing 100 percent coverage of an area all the time, the rotating camera was pointed in the wrong direction 98 percent of the time.

“If a contractor thinks a change in the system may be warranted, the best route to take is getting direct feedback from the person who designed the system,” Murphy said.

In hotels, the greatest risks are those presented by outside elements or nonguests who may be interested in taking guests’ personal property, stealing portable computers or audiovisual equipment from meeting rooms, or lifting cases of liquor from a storage area.

“In those cases, access control is the key deterrent. Depending upon the size of the facility, number of entrances and their locations, and type of guests, security may take the form of uniformed guards, surveillance cameras and door locks operated by card keys,” Murphy said.

Hotels also are adding individual safes in rooms and card access keys to meeting rooms to restrict entrance to attendees and hotel staff.

Inside and out, hotels and resort properties do their best to keep the area safe and secure. Light fixtures, especially outdoors, are evolving from low sodium to metal halide because they render truer light, which is a plus when cameras are recording parking lots and stairwells.

Tailor the approach

One key for the electrical contractor, Murphy said, is to recognize that no two situations are alike, and he or she must understand the context within which the security plan was designed.

Chris McGooey, an industry consultant in California, said when dealing with new construction, “the contractor should look to the potential for future needs and plan accordingly. Installing extra wire routing for future upgrades is one example. It’s cheaper in the long-run to plan today for future needs.”

Bill McShane, director of Loss Prevention and Life Safety for New York’s Affinia Hospitality said: “Our task is to do whatever is necessary to make people feel safe. The basic principal of physical security covers such diverse factors as layout, design, lighting, fences and gates, hardware, closed circuit television, and alarms.”

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) has become a way for architects and designers to address a wide variety of security concerns.

“The basic principals of CPTED include access control and surveillance of specific areas to diminish opportunities for crime to occur,” McShane said.

Hotels should consider the ability to see people entering elevators from the front desk; maintaining exterior light levels at entrances, recreational facilities and parking areas to eliminate areas where someone might hide; and limiting access to specific areas.

Energy and building automation is also integrating more and more with security. Lutron recently introduced the Digital microWATT system that automatically adjusts fluorescent or incandescent lighting and is designed to allow a property manager to reduce energy costs and improve security. The zoned systems can isolate specific power outputs. In an emergency, the system may produce “flash” lighting in affected areas. In a total meltdown, the system may restore lighting to preset levels long enough to allow evacuation.

It is clear that a heightened awareness of security issues, along with opportunities for electrical contractors, exist in the hotel and resort field. The key to tapping the market is the ability to present an informed, value-added approach.

LAWRENCE is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bozeman, Mont. He can be reached at hrscrk@mcn.net.