On Saturday, April 1st, 2017, fourteen people fell ill - and one teenager sadly passed away - due to a carbon monoxide leak in a Michigan hotel. According to CNN, the incident is being attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from a malfunctioning heater in the hotel’s indoor pool. While the carbon monoxide leak had the strongest effects in the pool area, carbon monoxide levels were also high throughout the hotel; at 800 parts per million, far higher than the United States standard of 35 parts per million. It has also been stated that the hotel’s pool room did not have any carbon monoxide detectors.

It is important that hoteliers look at this tragic incident and examine their own hotels and safety practices in order to prevent future incidents of this scope.

What can you do

Fire emergency and life safety equipment - Key safety measures that all hoteliers should consider, that at least meet, but in some cases exceed regulatory codes include carbon monoxide detectors, alarm systems, security systems, and other life safety processes and equipment. Installing equipment is not enough; all safety processes should be regularly tested, and employees must be trained, with frequent drills to vary emergency scenarios to ensure that they will understand what to do in a variety of emergency situations.

Emergency response planning - The first step to emergency management planning is performing a vulnerability analysis. An effective vulnerability analysis looks at all possible threats. Once risks have been assessed, hoteliers need to put together a response plan that addresses various types of incidents, what the risks are, what could trigger the plan, and what to do in the event an incident escalates to become a crisis.

The most important way to protect your guests is to have open and informative lines of communication with them. Guests should be properly informed of hotel safety protocols (including evacuation) and should know how to act in the event of an emergency.

As a situation develops, there are a number of additional factors that need to be addressed such as: how the guests will be transported and evacuated, when to shelter in place, how to contact next of kin, as well as a backup food service plan. What if the staff is unable to get to the hotel? The plan absolutely needs to establish lines of communication if the entire hotel staff is not on-site. Or, in the event of a general gas or carbon monoxide leak as we saw in Michigan this past weekend, how will guests be transported to medical services? Who will give them initial medical care? What should hotel guests do if they witness a potential crisis? By creating a flipboard to these questions you can ensure that your operations will be ready to respond in the event of a crisis. This step by step process should take you throughout the crisis management process and should include how your team will interact with social media.

Crisis management - Today, we are simultaneously blessed and cursed with the ability to know about things almost as soon as they have happened, and while this is in many ways beneficial, it can easily devastate a business in the event of a crisis, particularly if the crisis could potentially be attributed to the business’s actions. A social media policy should specify who will be active on the business’s social media accounts and what they will share (it is recommended that your public relations team also be involved), and it should be done in a timely manner.

Contact your HUB broker today to learn more about implementing effective emergency and crisis management plans.