Friday, November 9, 2018

Carbon Monoxide Leak Tests Hotel Management’s Preparedness

David Trumble

The evening begins like any other at a 500-room hotel in the center of the city. Shortly after midnight, calls light up the switchboard. Several guests complain of nausea.  Some already have called 911 for medical help.  The night manager on duty contacts the general manager at home. Together, they make the decision to evacuate the hotel.

Emergency personnel arrive while the hotel is being evacuated and quickly identify the problem: a carbon monoxide leak in a natural gas water heater. The night-shift team takes dozens of calls and focuses their efforts on responding to guests.  The emergency gains the attention of several local news outlets, which dispatch reporters.

The hotel team does its best to ease guest concerns but soon is overwhelmed. The night manager and GM call their regional operations team for help.  

In the aftermath, they reflect on how they could have handled the situation better. They search for the company crisis manual, only to discover a very outdated document. Personnel once charged with crisis management no longer work for the company or at the hotel.

This event is real.  Others like it happen every day. This should be a cautionary tale for any general manager. Before the next crisis hits, they should take the time to become familiar with their organization’s emergency procedures.

A good crisis management plan for field operations should feature the following:

  • Clearly defined protocols for what constitutes a crisis
  • An up-to-date chain of command with emergency phone numbers
  • A team specifically trained to manage a crisis
  • A company official to serve as liaison with emergency responders and to investigate the incident
  • A media spokesperson
  • Training at all levels
  • Practice drills

A crisis management plan should be considered an essential part of an organization’s daily operations.  The plan needs to be widely disseminated, frequently updated and practiced with periodic drills.

IntegratedCrisis Management Solutions is composed of security operatives and communications professionals who offer risk assessments, streamlined emergency protocols, management training, customer and employee communication assistance, media relations and recovery programs. For more information, go to

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