Why hotels need a Crisis Management Plan

LAS VEGAS — The events of Oct. 1, 2017 unfolded just a few miles from the Hard Rock Hotel, as a gunman opened fire on concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip, leaving 58 dead and 546 injured.

Mert Pryce, left and David Rodrigues spoke about crisis management at the Red Lion conference.

Mert Pryce, left and David Rodrigues spoke about crisis management at the Red Lion conference.

LAS VEGAS — The events of Oct. 1, 2017 unfolded just a few miles from the Hard Rock Hotel, as a gunman opened fire on concert goers at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip, leaving 58 dead and 546 injured.

“It was a horrible situation,” said David Rodrigues, risk manager for the Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas, addressing delegates to the Red Lion Hotel Conference held there recently. “People think you could have prevented this. But if you open bags and get dogs to sniff them, and then go through the bags, there's a portion of the public who would not want to come. And it's common to see people with a lot of baggage — maybe one person with 10 bags for the friends coming to the hotel later. It's a difficult situation.

“It only took 10 minutes — most crises happen very quickly. My best advice is when you have a crisis management plan, you try to slow that dynamic situation down.

“The worst thing you can do during a crisis is put out information that can later be debunked.  You want to address the situation simply, quickly and intelligently.

“It's okay to say, 'we're investigating'. You don't want to say 'we're liable,” etc.”

Rodrigues and Mert Pryce, ex-Marine and former VP of corporate security for Wyndham, advocated a five-point crisis management plan.

Step 1: Prepare.  Have someone designated as a spokesperson, and one person dealing with the fire, rescue and police. 

Step 2: Prevent. “While you aren't going to prevent every situation, there are some things we know,” said Rodrigues. “There are cyber attacks — so encrypt your files and have protocols in place.” Added Pryce, “One of my security nerd magazines said there are 3,500 to 4,000 ransomware attacks per day in the U.S., costing fro $50 to $5,000 to $10,000.”

Step 3: Respond. 

Step 4: Stabilize. “When dealing with fire or flood, after the incident you want to stabilize your company and your brand and make sure you can recover that brand — do what's right,” Rodrigues said.

Step 5: Recover. Planning principles include: timely and accurate threat assessment; clearly defined roles and responsibilities; communications and reporting — a decision as to who gets the call first, second and third; preplanned administrative support; maintenance of security and operations.

“For active shooters, remember that when the police show up, they are not going to help people escape,” said Pryce. “Their only focus is to find the shooter and end the situation.  Think about how to get word to your guests — do you have a PA system or will you go door to door? There should be a clear, uniform and accurate position coming from one person if possible.”

Both Rodrigues and Pryce recommend getting your local police involved with your operation. “Active shooters want easy targets. They go to churches or music festivals — nobody goes to a Marine Corps base. Don't make your properties an easy target. Get to know your local police. Have them in to your operation. This will deter people. Most police departments around the US. are willing to do a walkabout and identify things on your property.”