Security: Can We Improve The Odds?

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October 29, 2018
Security
Peg McGregor

In the last several years, the notion that soft target venues pose a real security concern is unequivocal. Broadly speaking, in the hospitality industry the events over the last decade demonstrate that greater focus and attention is probably overdue.

Since the tragic events of Oct. 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, security has become a major focus across the country. There continues to be much debate over what is adequate, what is too much, what is the right balance of security.
 
Intrusive security is antithetical to the hospitality industry. Implementing extreme procedures (TSA-like processes) would not only lengthen check-in lines, but also increase the stress and feeling of discomfort on the part of the guest. The key issue is how to implement security that effectively balances the need for safety against customer or guest experience, the cost of implementing new technologies and associated risk management factors. 
 
Most Las Vegas properties have implemented several different measures to improve and enhance security. After Oct. 1, 2017, Wynn Resorts began bag checks with hand-held metal detectors; although have since discontinued the practice. Most properties have increased the presence of security guards based on need assessments tied to time of day, ongoing events, occupancy and so on. Most properties have also increased training of their staff– not only security staff, but housekeeping, maintenance, tech services, etc., to recognize suspicious behavior and to act appropriately in unsafe situations. Across the country, many hotels have implemented standards requiring rooms to be checked at least once every 24 hours even if a “do not disturb” sign is displayed. 
 
Is this the extent of what these properties have done to enhance security in their venues? Have more significant measures been taken to improve security and safety? Very likely – but we don’t know for sure, because they are not telling for a variety of good reasons. 
 
Key elements of an enhanced security program minimally include effective communications between stakeholders, well defined emergency response plans, effective escalation processes, and ongoing training on policies and procedures as well as how to recognize suspicious behavior.
 
Security procedures and technologies range from those that are reactive to those that are proactive. Reactive systems, such as panic buttons, provide alerts as a threatening situation is developing, giving staff a direct line to help and providing the responder with immediate locations of the threat. Most properties are aggressively looking at a range of available solutions. Some of these are mandated; Las Vegas with the updated culinary union contract, as well as a number of cities including Chicago and New York, have passed ordinances in the last several months requiring alert systems for staff.
 
Proactive solutions provide the capability to recognize and prevent threats. NEC’s biometrics platform provides a full suite of security and safety solutions to help prevent serious incidents from occurring; and can do this in an unobtrusive way. The platform provides facial recognition, VMS, perimeter security solutions, abandoned object recognition, panic buttons, communications and push to talk solutions, and more. These solutions can be implemented independently or together, which allows casinos and properties to implement pieces of the solution they are most in need of, allowing companies to implement both reactive and proactive solutions. In a more proactive environment, the platform provides casinos facial recognition technology which allows them to identify staff, provide access control, and alert security and other staff when a self-banned player has entered the casino floor or that an unwanted person is on the property. The biometrics platform can be integrated with local police departments, as well as state-wide or national databases. There are passive detection capabilities that can identify concealed weapons, plastics, powders, ceramics and other contraband, without interfering with the guest experience.
 
We have seen sophisticated new patented technology which allows a property to provide a 3D and mobile application, allowing real-time identification through the biometrics platform and locational capability to find the threat.
 
It is not only unrealistic, but wholly absurd to think that any soft venue can be sufficiently “fortified” to totally prevent all such incidents. Is the conclusion, then, that the cost is difficult, if not impossible to justify? I think not. 
 
The technology exists to provide better security and safety to all stakeholders without destroying guest experience. However, security and safety are not typically seen as revenue generators. 
 
The good news is that all enhanced security systems are coupled with sophisticated data analytic engines. These engines are able to absorb huge quantities of data (Big Data) and use AI and machine learning to build predictive models around the customers and guests. These systems can track traffic flow, dwell times, play time, as well as other guest behavior. 
 
Using sophisticated algorithms and machine learning, this data provides information that can identify needed changes on the casino floor to maximize revenues, improve promotions for specific guest segments to increase visitation, and offer promotions that generate revenue. 
 
The same technology that allows a security team to track or follow a bad actor allows the same identification of a hotel guest, casino player or concert-goer. What if this tracking allowed a casino to move an unrated player to a rated, or provide offers to a hotel guest based on past behaviors? What if the technology not only enabled staff protection in a threatening situation, but also allowed a venue or property to remove unsightly, in-room dining trays more quickly from hallways or provide a refrigerator, rollaway
bed or another amenity more quickly? 
 
Attendant to the security and safety options that these solutions provide, the solutions effectively enhance guest and player experience. A dual-factor authentication process allows us to scan government issued identification such as a driver’s license or passport and alert an ambassador of a VIP. This authentication process also provides guest check-in to the property at kiosks or through a mobile check-in app.
 
The panic button solution fully integrated into the platform is also a full-asset tracking system that allows guestroom
attendants to immediately locate assets such as cribs and rollaway beds so staff can quickly provide items to a guest when requested. This same technology allows us to determine that a guest has finished with an in-room dining and have placed the tray into the hall. 
 
These scenarios not only provide better guest experience but allow properties a greater share of wallet. The potential downstream benefits to these solutions can only be implemented with a well thought out strategic and tactical plan. It will require creativity and the courage to cross traditional, internal lines of business barriers. 
 
There is no real indication that the perpetrator of the October 1 shooter event was a true threat. Perhaps this type of event is simply not preventable. However, with enhanced security, offset by the potential for creating incremental revenues using these systems, we may just “improve the odds” all the way around.
 
Key Elements Of An Enhanced Security Program Minimally Include:
  • effective communications between stakeholders
  • well defined emergency response plans
  • effective escalation processes
  • ongoing training on policies and procedures as well as how to recognize suspicious behavior

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