Hotel Panic Buttons and the 5 Star Promise

What is Staff Alert?

Staff Alert are employee safety devices that are more commonly known as hotel panic buttons, that can be carried by employees and dispatches emergency alerts that provide exact locations, allowing responders to reach employees within minutes.  Panic buttons can be worn around the neck, can be attached to belts or anywhere on the employee’s clothing that is easily accessible in the event of an emergency.

Staff Alert Hotel Panic Buttons: How Do They Work and Why It’s Important for Your Hotel

Hotel Panic Buttons TechnologyAccording to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), each year 2 million people report being victims of some type of workplace violence.  Workers, who work alone or work late at night are more at risk of becoming victims of workplace violence.  Due to the nature of their jobs, hotel employees are required to come in close contact with guests and are also required to work late hours and to work over night.  A 2016 study found that 58% of hotel workers disclosed that they had been sexually harassed or assaulted during the course of their work.  A hospitality survey conducted in the UK found that 86% of responders had experienced one or more incidences of sexual harassment while at work.  The safety of those in the hospitality industry is of concern, as a 2016 report found that 9 out of 10 hospitality workers suffered some type of abuse during their dealings with guests.

AHLA 5-Star Promise

AHLA 5 Star PromiseIn September 2018, The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and major hotel brands announced the 5-Star promise.  Participating members pledged to provide hotel employees with safety devices, to provide training and to update their policies in order to increase the safety of their workers.  Almost 60 member companies representing 20,000 hotel properties have committed to prioritizing employee safety and equipping employees with safety devices.  And so far over 5,000 hotels have implemented safety devices in the United States, with the goal of nationwide implementation by 2020.  However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has extended some deadlines.

There are 5 main components to the 5-Star Promise:

§  Build on our industry’s longstanding commitment to hospitality and a People Culture by continuing to provide industry-wide training and materials on safety and security and retain expert guidance to work with the industry on diversity and safety matters.

§  Ensure mandatory anti-sexual harassment policies are in place in multiple languages.

§  Provide ongoing training and education for employees on identifying and reporting sexual harassment.

§  Provide U.S. hotel employees with employee safety devices to help them feel safe on the job.

§  Broaden vital partnerships with wide-ranging national organizations that target sexual violence and assault and trafficking and promote workplace safety.

How Does Staff Alert Work?

How panic buttons work depends on the technology provider, but most panic buttons utilize Bluetooth technology that provides precise locations in the event of an emergency.  Hotel panic buttons can utilize Bluetooth technology that is paired with mobile devices to deliver precise locations.  Most panic buttons operating on Bluetooth technology is App based and requires a mobile log in to activate the App in order to activate an emergency alert.  There are panic buttons that operate by cellular LTE and do not require a mobile device, these panic buttons are connected directly to the available cellular network.  In order for panic buttons to be operable, location beacons must first be installed in areas of the hotel and once the devices are activated it identifies the closest location beacon and transmits precise GPS coordinates.

Once a panic button has been pressed indicating someone is in distress, a widespread emergency alert is sent out to the dispatch center in the hotel.  Panic buttons can also be configured to send emergency alerts to predetermined emergency contacts or to local authorities.  All information and updates are relayed in real time and if the employee in distress changes location, that will be updated as well.  Panic Buttons will continuously send a distress signal until the issue has been resolved.

Panic buttons can be powered by rechargeable batteries, non-rechargeable batteries or swappable devices that allows for the transfer of employee credentials.  Most Staff Alert devices are sophisticated enough to send a low battery signal to the managers in order to be swapped or to have batteries replaced.  The technology allows employees to be located on and off of the hotel premises, once an employee is off of the hotel premises, the device relies on GPS coordinates to get location.

Benefits of Hotel Panic Buttons

Hotel Panic Button

Panic Buttons Increase Retention

Panic buttons are a worthy investment and can be very beneficial to hotels in the long run.  The hotel industry is well known for its very high turnover rates of over 70%, which is significantly higher than other industries.  Investing in the safety of employees by providing panic buttons will give employees an increased sense of value and will create a better company culture.  Employees are more likely to stay with hotels where they feel safe and supported.  Investing in panic buttons will also aid in the effort to attract more candidates, by offering prospective employees a safe work environment.

Panic Buttons Reduce Liability

Investing in panic buttons also helps to reduce a hotel’s liability in the event that a staff related incident occurs.  Providing staff with panic buttons shows that hotels acted responsibility and took steps to provide a safe work environment, by equipping employees with devices for their protection.

Panic Buttons Protect Your Hotel Brand

In the age of social media, negative incidences that are associated with your hotel has the potential to reach billions of people worldwide and can have an adverse impact on reputation.  Negative reviews about your hotel will also influence prospective guests, as 90 % of consumers read reviews online before choosing a business.  And 74% of consumers are more trusting of businesses with positive reviews.  At least 50% of Americans google companies before conducting business with them, therefore investing in a safety device can mitigate the risk of negative incidences being associated with your hotel.

Panic Buttons Provide Protection for All Employees

Panic buttons offers protection to all employees and helps them to better respond to co-workers or guests who are in distress.  Panic buttons are not only beneficial for guest room staff but are also beneficial for employees who work in hotel bars and restaurants, who work at hotel pools or who work in hotels spas.  Equipping them with safety devices allows them to get assistance immediately in the event of an emergency.







Legislative landscape for hospitality safety laws

Legislatures and Ordinances

New hotel panic button laws and ordinances have been put in place that require hotels to provide employees with safety devices /panic buttons to ensure their safety while at work.  Different states have different requirements and timeframes for hotels to become compliant.

Washington State Hotel Panic Buttons

Washington State Hotel Panic ButtonsDate of Compliance

Hotels and motels with 60 or more rooms must become compliant by January 1st, 2020, with all other businesses meeting the requirement by January 1st, 2021.  All hotels, motels, retail, or property services contractor, who employs an employee must provide a panic button to each employee.  Hotels are also required to adopt a sexual harassment policy and to provide mandatory training to managers, supervisors and employees.  A list of resources must be provided to employees to and must include contact information of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Washington state Human Rights Commission, and local advocacy groups focused on preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Existing Requirements for Panic Buttons

On November 30th, 2016, the Health ad Safety (HEHS) Initiative became effective and requires Seattle hotels with 60 or more guest rooms to equip each staff member assigned to work alone in guestrooms with panic buttons.  The new Washington law is statewide and is applicable to all hospitality owners regardless of size.

New Jersey Hotel Panic Buttons

New Jersey Hotel Panic ButtonsDate of compliance

The deadline for hotels to become compliant was January 1, 2020.

The Panic Button Law requires hotels, inns, boarding houses, motels or other similar establishments with at least 100 guest rooms to provide panic buttons to hotel employees assigned to work in a guest room without any other employee present.  Panic buttons must be provided at no cost to the employees.  Hotel employees who are covered under the law and who under reasonable circumstances believe they are in the presence of an ongoing crime, an emergency or immediate threat of assault or harassment may stop working, may leave the immediate area and wait for help to arrive.  The hotel may not take any unfavorable action against employees who exercise their right to use panic buttons.

Additional Requirements

Hotels that violate any provision of the act, which includes failure to provide panic buttons or failure to follow any requirement may result in a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for the first violation.  Hotels can expect up to $10,000 in civil penalties for each subsequent violation.

Illinois Hotel Panic Buttons

Illinois Hotel Panic ButtonsDate of Compliance

The deadline for hotels to become compliant was July 1st, 2020 but was extended to March 1, 2021.

Hotels and casinos are responsible for equipping employees who are assigned to work in guest rooms, restrooms, or casino floors, where no other employee is present in the room or area, with a safety device or a notification device.  The ordinance also prohibits retaliation against employees for the use of panic buttons, for making use of the protections afforded by the anti- sexual harassment policy, or for disclosing, reporting, or testifying about violations of the Act.

Additional Requirements

An employee or representative of employees that successfully brings a claim under this Act shall be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.  An award of economic damages shall not exceed $350 for each violation.  Each day that a violation continues constitutes a separate violation.

Massachusetts Hotel Panic Buttons

Massachusetts Hotel Panic ButtonsDate of compliance

Ordinance is still pending: Will take effect 1 year after passage

Hotels with at least 25 rooms are required to provide employees assigned to work in guest rooms or in any enclosed area, where no other employees are present and where guests may be reasonably expected to be present, with panic buttons.  Hotels are required to develop and maintain a program that provides employees with information, written or otherwise, in order to educate hotel employees regarding the use of panic buttons.  Employees should also be informed of their rights in the event their panic buttons are activated, and employees should be encouraged to activate panic buttons when appropriate.

Long Beach, CA Hotel Panic Buttons

Date of Compliance

Any hotel containing 50 or more guest rooms must become compliant no later than 6 months following the effective date of November 13, 2018.  All other hotels containing less than 50 guest rooms are required to become compliant no later than 1 year following the effective date of November 13, 2018.  Hotels are required to post a notice on doors of each guest room, that displays the heading “The Law Protects Hotel Housekeepers and Hotel Employees From Threatening Behavior,” and a notice that the hotel is providing panic buttons to its specific employees.

Sacramento, CA Hotel Panic Buttons

Date of Compliance

The ordinance became effective on March 29, 2018.  The county will provide a 60-day grace period for businesses to comply with the ordinance after it takes effect.

This bill applies to hotels and motels with 25 or more rooms that are located in the unincorporated area of Sacramento County.  It requires every hotel owner to provide each employee with a panic button or notification device.  Hotels are also required to develop, maintain, and comply with a written sexual harassment policy to protect employees against sexual assault and sexual harassment by guests.  The policy must describe the procedures the complaining employee and hotel shall follow in instances of alleged sexual assault or sexual harassment by guests.

Santa Monica, CA Hotel Panic Buttons

Date of Compliance

The ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2020.

Hotels must provide employees assigned to work in guest room or rest rooms with safety devices to prevent sexual violence or threatening behavior.  The ordinance also requires hotels to use a certified Public Housekeeping Training Organization, in order to provide regular training for employees.

Oakland, CA Hotel Panic Buttons

Date of Compliance

The deadline for compliance was July 1, 2020.

Hotel with 50 or more guest rooms must provide a panic buttons to all hotel employees assigned to work in a guest room or bathroom without other employees present.  Hotels are also prohibited from taking disciplinary actions against employees for the use of panic buttons, unless it is “clear and convincing” that employees knowingly made a false report of an emergency.  Hotels are also required to post a notice on doors of each guest room, that displays the heading “The Law Protects Hotel Housekeepers and Hotel Employees From Threatening Behavior,” and a notice that the hotel is providing panic buttons to its specific employees.

Miami Beach, Florida Hotel Panic Buttons

Date of Compliance

The deadline for compliance is August 1st, 2019.

Hotels are required to provide panic buttons or notification devices to each hotel or hostel employee.  Hotels are also required to post signs in guest rooms that a safety device has been given to hotel employees.  Non-compliance will result in a written warning for the first offense, a 2nd violation will result in a civil fine of $500, 3rd violation will result in a civil fine of $1,000 and the 4th and subsequent violation in the preceding six months will result in a civil fine of $2,000.

Vendor Spotlight: RelayPro

Hotel panic buttons are a new requirement for hotels, but they don’t have to be a new expense. RelayPro was recently approved by Marriott, IHG and Choice hotels and has been installed in nearly 2,000 properties.  RelayPro is BOTH a 4G/Wi-Fi walkie talkie and a cutting-edge panic button with VOICE communication.