Travel Security means remembering that many hotels and resorts worldwide are in or near high-crime areas and attract predators looking for easy prey. Travelers are easy - they're unfamiliar with the area and distracted by the scenery.
Questions to ask before booking a room:
• Are all outside doors alarmed and checked to ensure they're activated?
• Are there surveillance cameras throughout the hotel and guards at all posts at all times?
• Are all employees checked for drugs and criminal backgrounds?
• Is the entire hotel equipped with smoke detectors and fire sprinklers?
• Is every guestroom door equipped with a deadbolt lock and a peephole?
• Does the hotel have a safe for storing valuables?
On 15 February 1999, serial killer Cary Stayner, a repairman at a motel near California’s Yosemite National Park, noticed three guests he considered easy prey. Carrying his toolbox, he knocked on the door of Carole Sund, her teenage daughter, Juli, and teenage family guest Silvina Pelosso claiming he needed to fix a leaking pipe. Through her locked door, Carole Sund told him there was no leak in the bathroom and refused to open the door. But finally she peered out the peephole, saw his uniform and toolbox, and with a sigh of relief, let him in. He disappeared into the bathroom and returned a moment later with a handgun, ordering the three to bind each other – whereupon he tortured, raped, and murdered them. Upon his arrest, he confessed.
Always check FIRST with the front desk before you fall for a fairly common crime. (Also beware of fake visitors at home. See Home Security - Scam-In.)
Motels, loosely defined, have hallways and room doors on the outside of the building while hotels' are inside. For security, try to get a motel room close to the office and on the second story.
Predators target hotels and motels because tourists carry money and are thinking more about having fun than travel security – and know little about the area they’re visiting. Call ahead to local police to find out the crime rate at a specific lodging.
Hotels have an ever-changing cast of guests that criminals blend into, phones linking all rooms by dialing a room-number, easily bribed staff, easily-obtained staff uniforms and badges, and often sloppy security.A well-travelled businesswoman heard a knock on her Los Gatos CA motel room door, assumed it was a colleague, and opened it – to a rapist. The motel had no basic security devices and no security staff after dark. Other than fire codes, there are no national standards and few state codes for security at the country's 47,000 hotels’ 4.4 million rooms.
Employees often disable exterior door alarms after they are accidentally triggered. Security guards often don't notice that someone, such as a smoker, has taped the latch open on an exterior door. And guests often ignore security by treating hallways like safe public places – just assuming that other people belong there.Predators often trail victims to their rooms and barge in when they unlock their doors. Don’t enter an elevator with someone who makes you uncomfortable. Press the button to your floor last. If you feel uncomfortable with another person, get out as soon as possible. If the stranger gets out on your floor, stop at the nearest guestroom and wait for the stranger to pass before going to your own room and don’t open the door if there is a stranger nearby.
• Accept no room on the ground floor (greater burglary risk) or
one too high for firemen’s ladders to reach. The second through sixth
floors are best.
• Accept no room without a deadbolt lock, without a door peephole, or with an isolated entry.
• A woman alone should request the concierge or key service floor.
• Insist that the front desk keeps your name, room and phone numbers private and to call you if anyone inquires about you. See below.
• Request a hotel employee escort to your room and to stay as you check all entry points and hiding spots.
• Count the number of doors from your room to a fire exit so you can find it while crawling through dense smoke with a wet towel wrapped over your mouth and nose. And read the fire escape procedures on your entry door. Just one careless guest can burn down the entire hotel.
• Request a security escort to your room when returning late at night.
• Don't enter the room if the door is ajar, unlocked, or if someone is loitering near your room. Go to the front desk instead.
• Immediately report any suspicious activity to the management.
• Phone the front desk to verify any delivery or serviceman at your door. Never open it without checking.
• If you're alone, before receiving even legitimate deliveries, turn on the shower, close the bathroom door and loudly call out, “I’ll get the door, Max,” so the delivery person (and his/her friends) won’t know you’re alone.
• Hang a portable security alarm on your inside doorknob.
• Lock your door when going to the ice machine, etc.
• Before you leave your room, check the peephole before you open the door (call the front desk if anyone is lurking outside). Keep the TV or radio on while you’re gone. As you leave, call out, “I’ll be back soon, Max,” to an imaginary male companion as you close and lock the door. Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside.
• Hold an elevator door open as you press the button for your floor. If the arrow indicates you will go in your desired direction, release the door. But if the arrow points the wrong direction, get out! Someone else (possibly in the basement or on the roof) has summoned the elevator, and there’s no need for you to go there. Wait for the car to return to your floor and inspect it before you get in.
• Always stand near the elevator door so you can get off immediately if someone you distrust gets on. Especially, don’t go to the basement or roof with him – push the alarm button (not “Emergency Stop”) and/or push other floor buttons for more opportunities to flee the elevator. If he chases you, start banging on doors as you run past while yelling "Help! Police!" - and pull a fire alarm if possible.
• Always have an employee escort you when going to the parking garage.
• Make sure your clothing or car license plate doesn’t identify you as a tourist, and get directions to your destination from the front desk to avoid appearing lost or wandering into dangerous areas.
How do you stop peeping toms who tamper with your peephole? Simply put a Band-Aid bandage over the peephole. If you attach it vertically (with one sticky side above the peephole and the other side below), you can lift the bottom section to look out through the peephole. Or you can use a Post It (the notepad papers with a sticky edge).
Also for travel security, make sure you always use the peephole to see who’s outside before opening your door (then always call the front desk to verify anyone you don't know – including supposed "room service" or a "repairman"). Never open your door unless you know for SURE who is there!
Hotels and motels are notorious for poor room door-lock security – either deadbolt or electronic. Management has master keys and cards for either type and they’re often used by numerous staff – and get copied or pilfered by devious employees. Also, predators can use a lock bumping or electronic tool to bypass the locks. Keep your valuables in the hotel safe. When you’re in the room, you can use the following portable door alarms:
• Door-Stop Alarm for hotel security – a door wedge (both a siren and a physical barrier to forced entry).
• Doorknob Alarm - shrieks when jostled.
• Stash clothing (such as a money belt). See Pickpockets.
• Stash safes (diversion safes): ordinary cans (of deodorant or whatever) modified with hidden storage space.
• GPS Child Locator: a child tracking device.
• Personal Security devices
• Pepper Spray
• Personal Security Alarm: (noisemaker or screamer)