Video Surveillance Solutions in Hotels

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In January this year, armed thieves stole jewels and other valuables from the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Paris. This brazen heist in one of the world’s most prestigious neighborhoods saw jewellery worth 4.5 million euros being stolen and the police are yet to recover them. This incident has also firmly brought the spotlight on the need for security solutions especially video surveillance. However in the context of hotels, security solutions encompass a gamut of needs from physical safety, safety of people as well as safety of both assets and systems.

Safe & Secure

Physical security includes provisions against theft, fire safety, proper lightning, tracking unwanted guests and safeguarding assets all as part of internal security. External security includes proper lighting outside the building, proper fencing of the building, fencing of pool area to avoid accidents at nights, manning of service gates and to restrict entry and fixing of closed circuits TV cameras. Security of people includes staff where concerns like effective recruitment and selection, control, and training apart from security of guests which is another major concern faced by hotels and restaurants.  Hotels and restaurants are built to foster an inviting and friendly atmosphere and yet maintain a strict surveillance over every guest entering the premises. It is a challenging task for the security personnel and the front desk employees who are assigned this job. They must be up to date on all credentials and establish a background check on the guests. “This is a strict protocol, which should be followed by every staff member and employee of the hotel. Some of the key security and surveillance concerns that hotels and restaurants face in the current day are lone attacks on single/solo guests, theft of merchandise or personal belongings, and other items that are expensive or important such as documents with identity details. We are extremely clear in our instructions to guests and visitors alike. We review every detail, including keycards (room entry cards), after-hours access, maintain emergency response protocols with the local police stations and hospitals located nearby the hotel and are committed to training our employees and staff on security measure of all types,” avered Rohit Vig, Managing Director, Staywell Hospitality Group.

Surveillance Matters

The hospitality and tourism industries are the largest and fastest-growing industries in the world and at same time the growth brings the risks also to industry as natural disasters, fire, criminal activities and many other crises which fall under accidental threats like hazardous material spills. Security is not limited to only a single aspect, it is been classified into various types and safety too involves preventing employees and customers within the hotel property from accidental slips as well as preventing related property damage. Ashvini Kumar, Safety and Security Manager & Certified Protection Professional, Novotel Hyderabad Airport says, “in hotels the surveillance is the top most concern as hotels commonly strive to create an environment which is both welcoming and secure but this is not an easy task as presence of Security may upset customers if it is deemed to be over-intrusive and an invasion of privacy.” Hoteliers also conduct regular periodic training, preventive maintenance to ensure proper functioning of these systems

Video Solutions

Hoteliers employ myriad solutions including key card access, fire and security alarm systems, access control systems including card key, locks, safes and biometric systems. Most of them have established evergreen background screening protocols, CCTV with night vision, motion sensors, instant coordination with concern authorities like fire brigade, police station as well as IP camera, Wi-Fi camera, face detection, alarm buzzer and mobile device as door keys. The hospitality industry has strict protocols in controlling security measures by placing key personnel and installing surveillance equipment in all major areas of the hotel accessible to the public and visitors to rooms. “Of course, we also maintain a strict privacy code with our room guests. Every entrance, exit and entertainment zone including hallways, entry corridors, parking lots, and keycards are tracked. Our security and surveillance teams are experts from the industry. The equipment we use is state-of-the-art technology and we keep recorded files of all our properties in a secure space. We also take time to educate our guests and visitors to be alert and look after their belongings in case of any untoward incidents that may occur,” said Vig. “Video solutions include the three theoretical identification views of a CCTV system namely subject identification, action identification and scene identification. In hotels these are specific areas where cameras will add a great value to security is the cash counters, lobby, restaurants, guest corridors and lifts. To meet these needs while installing the cameras it is important to keep some things in mind. The purpose of each camera, areas to be viewed by particular camera, environment as may affect the performance of camera and of course mounting are key factors. After this, the proper equipment (camera) needs be chosen as per requirement – whether Standard analog CCD camera, IP Camera, Infrared (IR) cameras or Thermal camera. The recording system needs to be chosen as per the requirement – Digital video recorders (DVRs), Network video recorders (NVR), Server/cloud applications are some choices,” said Ashvini Kumar.

ROI Matters

Security of guests is very important when it comes to any hotel or restaurant. Using the products and solutions in their standard way can offer better return on investment without compromising on the security it offers. “This can be majorly done by giving proper training to the staff so that the products are solutions are used to their fullest and yield maximum returns on the investment done by the hotel or restaurant. Sufficient investment in cyber security, Proper incident response plan, conducting thorough background training, monitor employee activity, video recording with metadata, monitoring subcontractors and third-party service providers, training staff, advanced alert and notification system are some of the latest products and solutions which are used in hotels and restaurants to minimise the above mentioned issues,” said Santosh J, Assistant Manager, VITS Hotels Worldwide Private Limited. “We have been training our staff and employees on security measures and have been very successful in ensuring that we maintain a safe and secure environment for our guests. The hospitality sector is a business that operates on reputation, therefore a single incident can and will impact the business, leaving a major repercussion and we will face massive loses if these security protocol measures are lacking. In the case of any untoward incident, we have a strict set of orders that are followed and the legal and police will be involved if there is an urgent need for their presence,” added Vig. Rajesh Kumar – Head of Security, Leela Palace, Bangalore opined, “any technology useful for security and surveillance can only give us greater return on investment when the team members are fully trained and can master the usage of technology. It is always recommended that technology should not master the human asset. Thus, The most important in training of security related information is not only for security staff but also for all the departments in hotel to report if they see not permitted products in possession of guests. In addition, multiple entry and exits to hotel and restaurant should be avoided.”

Supplier Issues

Security of guests is very important when it comes to any hotel or restaurant. “When choosing a vendor for video solutions one should consider his quality commitment, cost, additional resources and capabilities, prior work, contract terms and very importantly confidentiality to ensure that the vendor has well defined security policies,” said Santosh. Again most hoteliers prefer local vendors as they are cost effective (all branded products with cheaper rates as they have tied up with multi brands) and installation cost is much cheaper. Also the technical support is more quick and both online and offline support is available. Parts or other peripherals are also easy available and cheaper and are also certified. A key factor is usability and post installation, regular training of staff is important. “Every company has some good and bad experiences with the vendors who work for them. Usually the suppliers are committed when it comes to training of our staff for use of products/solutions and maintenance of those solutions. Perhaps, sometimes it does happen that the company has to follow up with the supplier to get the work done,” explained Santosh. Surveillance companies are extremely particular in training staff and security personnel of the hospitality industry. The suppliers have quick response teams who are always ready to be present at any time of the day or night to ensure that safety measures are kept under control. “This is an industry which needs to be on its toes 24×7. Therefore, our security protocols and methods are monitored by the minute. We have had many good experiences and not-so-good ones too. However, at the time of crisis, we are always in control of the situation and we will always try to ensure that our guests are secure before anything else is taken care of,” said Vig. “Before we select a vendor or even start the selection process we define and document their technical and business requirements in detail. We also conduct an extensive research to identify potential vendors and choose the best that suit our requirements. We prefer to work with both the local suppliers and international companies based on the scope of work. We prefer the local suppliers as they are more approachable than the international companies,” added Ashvini Kumar.

Being Efficient

Considering that security is an aspect that cannot have any compromise, these are solutions that need to perform optimally. There has to be a continuous audit on timely basis to ensure that the solutions are working effectively and efficiently. Also the staff has to be kept informed and trained about any new upgradations happening in the system so that they ensure the effective and smooth functioning of the solutions used. “The hospitality industry is light years ahead of time in surveillance and security systems. We have a team of experts who are on standby and they also train and skill our employees. We have strict procedures when it comes to keeping our security and surveillance systems up to date. Also, every upgrade, no matter the expenses, is purchased and installed to maintain a zero-tolerance environment and keep our guests safe. Every member is trained in surveillance operations and they have to maintain the reporting line of communication around the clock,” said Vig. “The visit of vendors is to be planned according to our requirements. For example, if the baggage scanner vendor wants to come for service he should be called on the day when there is low In-house occupancy and expected lower visits from local guests. In banquets, the equipment will be available and more staff can attend training. The bad example is when there is a banquet function with higher numbers of guests expected to visit the hotel and baggage scanner vendor comes in with no prior intimation, then in such situations we cannot provide equipment as well as manpower for training,” said Rajesh Kumar.

New Vistas

The domain of hotels and restaurants is booming year over year and will continue to boom in the upcoming years. There are many new-age requirements which are being seen in the industry. Again, solutions in the security space needs to be up-to-date. The review on safety and security is done on daily, weekly, fortnightly and yearly basis. Mahendra Kumar, Security Manager, Anya Hotels said, “after the installation, we touch base with the product trainer and schedule training twice in month for all our security staff. To maintain our products and systems, we follow up with service provider in regular intervals. All the staff is thoroughly trained in system operating and routine trouble shooting, a comprehensive AMC is in place and all the necessary terms and contract is written in the AMC document. There must be a penalty cause if the complaint is not attended in agreed time and regular check and calibration of the system is carried out.” There are several different type of CCTV cameras and their purposes like Bullet Type Cameras, Dome Cameras, Discreet CCTVs, Infrared Cameras, Day/Night Types, Varifocal Camera, Network Cameras, Wireless cameras, PTZ Cameras, High definition cameras. “We have high definition cameras as these are useful in dim light areas with their high resolution lens, capturing images are possible giving us a finer detail on taken images. We already have installed such cameras as per requirement in our hotel areas,” said Ashvini Kumar. Hotels are certainly upping their game as far as security is concerned and new age video surveillance solutions are certainly coming in handy.

This story appeared in the Feb-2018 issue of Hotelier India’s Feb 2018 issue here: Surveillance Solutions Feb 2018

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