At the weekend, we stayed at Peterborough’s finest, five-star, all inclusive…
OK, we stayed at a cheap hotel as the five-star option would stretch our budget too far. Here is our experience of a budget hotel’s security with some tips on personal security at a hotel.
Firstly, this is not a blog post advising Hotel’s on their security. We’re saving that for another post soon. This post is for non-security minded people staying at a budget hotel within the United Kingdom. In addition, there is a lot to be said about planning your stay, home and personal security before we left our home in Milton Keynes – but we will also leave that for another post on another day.
The hotel itself was one of the UK’s main budget hotels, we won’t name it but it’s certainly in the top 5 when you think of budget hotels.
Hotel Lobby and Check In
TIP: Keep your luggage close and take them to the room yourself
Usually full of the hotel hustle and bustle. Guests checking out, guests checking in, people milling around. A perfect place then for someone to casually nip into your packet or walk out with your suitcase. Much like you probably would at an Airport, just make sure your got a good hold of your luggage and your aware of your surroundings.
Our experience at this hotel was positive. The lobby was small but designed well with crime prevention in mind as there were to sets of doors into the small lobby. The doors and lobby had large panels of glass which would have made it difficult for someone to take your belongings without you noticing.
TIP: Ask for a room off the ground floor if you can
Rooms on the ground floor or facing a flat roof would be more vulnerable to potential intruders. Also, make a note of your room number and floor and tell a friend or loved one.
We were given a room on the ground floor so I asked for another room on the first floor. We didn’t get it as the hotel was fully booked but at least we tried. Something I was quite pleased about was that although the room was on the ground floor it was clearly designed with crime prevention in mind. For example, outside our room were low level bushes which would make it difficult to gain access to the window. Another example was that there were plenty of windows facing our window facing our window increasing the perception of being watched for a potential burglar. We were lucky that we had many family members at the same hotel, so plenty of people we trusted knew our room number.
TIP: Check all room locks, connecting doors, patio or window locks
Some hotel rooms are designed so large family’s or groups of guests can have interconnecting rooms. Check for any connecting doors and make sure they are secure. In addition, lock any patio or window locks. Just because you’re on the 13th floor won’t mean that your balcony or window cannot be accessed.
Our window came with a lock and would only open about 5-10cm anyway. In addition, the door to the room came with a security door chain which we used and was nice to see. It meant that when hotel staff or even our family knocked on the door, we could open it whilst maintaining some control of access to our room.
TIP: Use the peephole on the main door if possible
You don’t know the people in the hotel or what’s waiting for you on the other side or your hotel door, a quick two-second check of the peephole is effective and not too much of a hassle.
Another positive for this hotel was that each door had a peephole. I had family members staying at the hotel and it was nice to see that they were checking the peephole before they opened the door to me when I came knocking.
TIP: If they have a room safe, and its secure with good contents insurance use it
Some hotel rooms will provide guests with a safe in the room. Before you start to use it, just make sure it’s in a good state and if the key could be easily copied. If your happy with the safe and its key, call reception and ask if the contents are insured and to what limit. If it’s a low limit, then you know hotel management probably don’t have much faith in their own safes.
No safe in our rooms, unfortunately, this was quite frustrating and I had items I wanted to secure, which I ended up having to take with me instead of leaving them in the room.
TIP: Use a door stopper for the hotel room door
The electronic key cards that give entry to your room have been known to be targeted by the ill intended. Without using an alternative means to secure your hotel door you are putting a lot of faith onto the Hotel’s security capabilities without really knowing how vulnerable they entry system is.
Another positive for the security door chain was that it gave use peace of mind at night that there was extra security on the door to the room. This in effect made our door stopper redundant, therefore, we didn’t use it.
Hotel Fire Safety
TIP: Check the fire safety notice in your room and walk the route
After my room is secure, the first thing I then do is check the fire safety and evacuation notice in my room. If there isn’t one in your room, call reception and ask for one. Secondly, walk the primary and secondary route you would take in an emergency. This will also help you familiarise yourself with the hotel.
Surprisingly, for me this is where the hotel let itself down. The primary and secondary emergency exits were easy and clear when I walked the route. However, the notices in each room left a lot to be desired. They were also dark which would have made them difficult to read in an emergency. I believe they should have been accompanied with a map of the building showing each room’s primary and secondary routes in an emergency.
Remember the ‘Gift of Fear’
Suggestion: If you don’t know what the ‘Gift of Fear’ is then read the book by Gavin de Becker
TIP: Trust your fear instinct
Fear is a survival instinct we have that helps us, as humans, protect ourselves from danger. However, we often choose to ignore it. A good example in a hotel setting is coming in from an night out and calling the lift. We wait for the lift and as the lift door opens there are some people inside. These people make us feel nervous but we don’t know why. Most people would just get in the lift anyway, trapping themselves inside the lift with people that make them feel nervous. Trusting your fear instinct however, will lead you to just wait for another lift or take the stairs. Many victims of violence often ignored their instinct of fear as you will learn if you read Gavin de Becker’s book ‘Gift of Fear’.
In the hotel and example of when I trusted my instinct could be when I decided to take valuable items with me instead of at the hotel. I am sure the housekeeping and nice and trustworthy people. In fact, I spoke to them a few times and they were very friendly and helpful. However, my instinct told me not to trust them around my high value items, therefore, I took them with me when I left the hotel.
Roundup of the advice:
Hotel’s Overall Score
Not bad for a budget hotel and the price you pay, but certainty some points to think about the next time you stay at a cheaper hotel in the UK
Day 3 of 3, I am writing short blog posts on my experience during my CCTV training course in Bedfordshire.
Day 3 - Module 2 and the tests
Yesterday I wrote a post stating that I would only have to do one test and not two because I had already completed module one on a previous course. However, this morning I found out that I would indeed be required to take both tests as they have rewritten module one since I took the course.
Slightly frustrating, however, it gave me a good chance to ensure I was still up to date with the basics of the security industry, which gladly I was.
The tests themselves were not too difficult. Its multiple choice and each test has 40 questions. Therefore, as I took two test I answered 80 questions and I would be disappointed if I got one wrong to be honest.
Before the tests there was also a practical assessment where we had to showcase our practical ability to control a CCTV system. Everyone in the class passed this with ease having all used a CCTV system before. However, it was good to see it being included in the course for those who may not have used a system before.
That’s it for today, for obvious reasons I cannot go into too much detail about the tests. However, I hope that anyone reading this post prior to taking a CCTV course; or anyone entering the security industry has gained some valuable inside the maybe ease pre-course nerves. Please read day one and two blog posts for more information and discussion on the subjects within the course.
Day 2 of 3, I am writing a short blog post on my experience during my CCTV training course in Bedfordshire.
Day 2 - Module 2: Working as a CCTV operator
Back in nice an early, today I have brought my close protection qualification with me so that I only must do one test tomorrow and not two. Anyone who has already completed a security guard, door supervision or close protection course only must sit the 2nd test; Module 2. This is because they have already passed a Module 1 test on their previous courses.
So, after much needed morning coffees, we started with Module 2 of the course. We didn’t finish the whole of Module 2 today and we will continue in the morning. Mainly because Module 2 is split up in 8 different chapters, compared to 6 in Module 1. These 8 are as follows:
The last two I will be covering tomorrow before the test, so I only covered the first 6 today. The two I want to focus on for this blog post is ‘Equipment of a CCTV system’ and ‘CCTV and relevant legislation’.
Equipment of a CCTV system: types of camera and likely employment
I know CCTV types confuse people not in the security industry. In addition, many more people are now buying CCTV as a security measure for their own home. Therefore, I thought I would share with you the types of camera and likely employment:
Black and White
All areas (usually older cameras)
All areas but require sufficient light
All areas essential colour in the day and black and white at night
One point only, usually entrances, corridors or alleyways etc.
Pan, Tilt and Zoom (PTZ)
All areas, specifically where zooming is required. Operator can move the camera and zoom as well
All areas (usually older cameras)
All areas and high quality pictures
All areas and high quality pictures, better than digital
All areas and high quality pictures, better than normal High Definition
Used for night where zero lighting is available
CCTV and relevant legislation: Human Rights Article Eight
I won’t go into all the relevant legislation, instead, I want to clear something up that bugs be about the security industry. Many security guards or officers do not seem to realise that the Human Rights only apply to public authorities. Which I saw on the course again today.
Now the term public authority can be split into two groups; core and functional. Core is the police, fire and local government etc. Whereas functional, can be an individual, business or body that is providing a service at the request of the state – which may be a security company on a contact. However, useless a security company is providing a service on behalf of the state, it does not have to adhere to Human Rights or Article Eight: a right to respect private family life, home and correspondence.
The reason I reiterate this is because I have seen many security guards and officers quote Article Eight, when trying to stop someone from taking a picture of them of the premises the protect. This is wrong because anyone can take a picture of most things from a public space – which will be explored more in a different blog post.
Now I am off the get some rest before the test tomorrow.
Over the next 3 days, I will write a short blog post on my experience during my CCTV training course in Bedfordshire. Although, I have a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence for Close Protection, that does not cover me for CCTV.
Under the Private Security Industry Act 2001, a person requires a CCTV SIA licence if they monitor the activities of a member of the public in a public or private place or to identify a person.
This is not true if the person only uses CCTV to identify a trespasser or to protect property as a security guard, for example. In that case the person could use a CCTV licence or any of the following which would cover them:
Cost and Duration
The course costs £150, plus parking and food, totalling around £200 for 3 days. Not bad really, but then there is the added cost of obtaining the SIA licence which is £220. Unless you already have a licence, then you get the second licence for £110.
Throughout the next three days, the training provider has stated that I will learn the following:
Day 1 - Module 1
The night before I check the route and got all my documents ready - the annoying hunt for my passport, passport photos and bill in my address.
I had precooked the car park, which made life a bit easier, and done quick recce of the training centre before tucking into a full English breakfast (any excuse will do). Once I arrived at the centre, fifteen minutes early of course, I was the first student in while the others started coming in between 08.55 and 09.15. Despite the course starting at 09.00
After introductions, we started with Module 1 of the course. This is the same beginning module for the SIA security guarding and door supervision courses. It took the whole day to get through module 1 which is split up in 6 different chapters:
What I found quite interesting today was that all 8 attendees of the course struggled with some of the topics in this first module. Despite the fact each attendee had passed an SIA course previously which would have covered the same basic module. This proves that a reliable and reputable security provider should be continually training and developing their staff. This will, in turn, aid the provider to deliver a high-quality service to their clients.
Without going over every topic covered in Module 1, I would like to highlight Chapter 6: Communication Skills and Customer Service. In particular, customer service, the all too often forgot aspect of a professional manned guarding service.
In my opinion, this chapter is too short and focuses too much on communication. When working as a security service provider, you are an extension of the organisation’s brand you protect. Most organisations will spend a lot of time and money to make sure their customer service is of a high standard. For example, in retail, a company may spend a lot of time and money on making sure their shop front is appealing, with helpful staff inside and build an all-round nice environment to shop in. This environment can be ruined in a second with an unfriendly or unprofessional security guard just inside the entrance to the store. Therefore, to finish here are some tips, covered today, that can improve customer service: