Pay Attention to Your Surroundings’ Surroundings

Paying attention to your surroundings and being situationally aware extends beyond your immediate environment. During a recent trip, we chose to stay at a hotel in a “safe” downtown area. The hotel boasted a 4.4 out of 5-star review, so we felt very safe reserving our rooms there. 

The Surroundings

Upon arrival, the hotel’s lobby was very clean, as were the rooms. The staff was courtesy and helpful. One of the hotel’s safety features included having to swipe our room key to access the elevator to our room, so we felt relatively secure with that added safety provision. Upon entering the room, we performed our usual safety check of the bathroom, closet, and under the beds. Everything appeared to be in good order. 

Hotel check in 4.5 starts

The Surroundings’ Surroundings

However, during the first night, we heard approximately 12 gunshots during the night. We saw blue lights flashing through the window of our fifth-floor room. We also heard someone jiggle the door handle, as if someone was attempting to access our room. Of course, we had double-locked the door with both the deadbolt and the hotel privacy door latch for in-swinging doors, as added security. 

The next day, we asked our travel companions, who were staying on the same floor in other rooms, if they had heard the shots, which they had. They also heard someone attempt to turn their door handle as well. In hindsight, we should have reported these attempts to the hotel staff, but we didn’t. I began to pay closer attention to the hotel guests, especially the ones on the elevator with us and those on our floor. It dawned on me that we were assuming that the perpetrator may have been someone from the outside when it very well could have been someone on the same floor. After all, if the perpetrator was a guest of the hotel, he or she would have had a key, giving him or her access to the elevator and to our floor. Therefore, the key swipe elevator feature clearly isn’t failproof. 

Key to hotel room

The Surroundings were suddenly different

On the last night of our stay, we visited a restaurant in the area that we found by searching restaurants nearby. On our route to the restaurant, we noticed that there were quite a few “unsavory characters” near the restaurant and some who appeared to be living in a park adjacent to the restaurant, which was located downtown in a corporate business area. We soon realized that the location was literally two blocks away from our hotel! We asked our waitress if the location was considered to be a “safe area”, and to our surprise she stated that it was not. She was concerned about her own safety coming to and from work. At this point, our situational awareness was elevated even more. 

Upon returning to our hotel for the last night of our stay, we returned to a practically empty parking lot. The parking lot had been full the same morning and now it looked abandoned. There was one car in the parking lot with a group of four individuals who appeared to be up to no good and who were entering the hotel. We devised a plan as to what we would do if the situation warranted a defensive response, and we quickly returned to our room.

During the night, we heard another gunshot. We also heard someone attempt to turn our door handle again. We staged our protection tools and placed the desk chair in front of the door, which would create a loud noise if someone was able to open the door during the night. There are door alarms that can be used for this purpose, as well. 

We had a very early flight, so it was dark when we checked out of the hotel the next morning. Upon leaving, we noticed an armed guard perched in the lobby of the hotel. Clearly, there was obviously a need for that added security measure.


Empty Parking Lot

Try and know your Surroundings’ Surroundings before a trip

What this ordeal highlighted for us is that it is just as important to check your surrounding areas, when choosing a hotel. You cannot rely only on the ratings of the hotel. Read the reviews of other guests and check the crime reports for the general area. Follow these safety tips when staying at a hotel. If you don’t or can’t carry protection tools, identify environmental weapons that may be in your hotel room. Have a plan of action in case you must act in self-defense. Know the laws for the city you are visiting before you go and what tools are permissible. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety. Any safety provisions offered by the hotel are in addition to your primary plan. Feel free to ask about safety protocols before booking your hotel stay. Pay attention to the other guests in the lobby, elevator, pool, and gym. It’s best to know what to expect prior to your stay so that you can plan accordingly.  

hotel hallway
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