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
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