AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the nation mourns and seeks answers in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, there’s a new sense of urgency in Austin to promote safety and security at hotels as the city prepare to welcome tens of thousands of music festival fans to Austin City Limits.
Nearly 500,000 people are expected to attend this year’s festival. Many of those tourists will stay in area hotels, and some will stay in high-rise buildings with a view of the crowds.
In direct response to the attack in Las Vegas, the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association sent a notice Monday afternoon to all of their hotels, asking them to consider their policy for “do not disturb” signs guests hang on the doors to their rooms.
That could possibly include shorter periods of time hotel staff would stay out of a room.
The email, sent out by the association’s president and CEO, says, “Hotels should consider how best to address DND policies during major city wide events in which there will be large crowds.”
Currently, nearly all major hotels have a 72 hour do not disturb policy to ensure that no more than three days pass that activity within a hotel room is not visible by hotel staff.
The suspected shooter in Las Vegas had checked into his room at the Mandalay Bay casino hotel on Thursday, three days before the shooting. It’s not yet clear if a do not disturb policy may have been a factor in Las Vegas.
“What we look at is trying to make sure that the guest room — if we see anything suspicious in terms of materials or guest activities — or in common areas, any suspicious activities, that we address it immediately and we work with area police,” explained Scott Joslove, president and CEO of the state hotel association. “We also have protocols if anything happens — how to respond to and how to partner with law enforcement immediately.”
Hotels can hire private security officers. They also have the option to ban guns from the building.
Regardless, anyone can enter a hotel — armed. Austin witnessed that aspect first-hand in July 2015 when suspect Michael Holt shot and killed a man inside the Omni Hotel downtown.
“I remember the day when it happened and it was another tragedy,” said Joslove. “I don’t think there was anything the hotel staff could have done to have avoided its happening.”
Other security experts argue there’s too much at stake in implementing such policy changes.
“It’s that trade-off. What are we willing to give up in terms of our personal freedoms for a feeling of security, a feeling of safety?” posed R. Kent Morrison, with BSG Security Services.
After all, hotels aren’t airports. “Are we willing to say, ‘I’m okay with having my bags searched before I take them into the hotel room?’ The logistics of that alone is terrifying,” added Morrison.
A hotel’s safety protocol is not required to be filed with the city of Austin. However, hotels are required to file what’s mandated through building and fire codes.
Those codes require a life/safety review of hotel plans, some of which include:
- Exit Locations
- Sprinkler Systems
- Fire Alarms, and
- Proper Lighting at Exit Points
These are all considered part of the review of the building plan — prior to construction.
The producers of Austin City Limits Music Festival, C3 Presents, released this statement:
Our thoughts and prayers are with our colleagues and everyone in Las Vegas who was affected by this terrible tragedy.
Safety has always been our top priority. Our staff and security team works year-round with the Austin Police Department, Austin Fire Department, Austin-Travis County EMS, and other authorities to plan and rehearse security and response plans. Over the years, tighter security measures have been implemented at ACL Fest including a layered security plan that includes elements that are seen and unseen, as well as pat downs, bag searches and size limits, and an enhanced security and law enforcement presence inside and outside the festival.
We look forward to Austin City Limits Music Festival over the next two weekends.”
For more information about the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, visit their website.