Frequent travelers, and I'm no exception, have a way of lulling themselves into a false sense of security about things that seem routine: getting taxis, winding through unfamiliar streets, stepping out into the darkness of an unfamiliar city when a flight is late and so on. I always feel "safe" when I get to a place - like to the hotel - when I can finally check in, lock a door, sit down and breathe.
But is that sense of safety misguided?
Recently, the New York Times ran an article about hotel safety that hit close to home in more ways than one. I not only worked for the company mentioned and know the person whose story was featured, I also was at the hotel working on the same meeting when the attack occurred. And it could have happened to any of us.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, the story lodged itself and I thought of it from time to time, but I sort of lumped myself into a category of people "those things wouldn't happen to." Then, on a recent trip, just after I had gotten back to my hotel and was settling down, I heard the familiar sound of another weary traveler walking down the hallway, followed quickly by not only the sound of a key going into the lock on MY door, but then the sight of my room door actually opening. The bar latch was on the door so it quickly closed, and I heard a confused person on the other side of the door calling the front desk again just as I was picking up the phone to find out what in the world was going on - but what if it hadn't been a mistake, or if I'd left the latch off? What if it had been someone acting with intent?
First, never be complacent about your safety when you're in a public place. Even though hotel rooms have doors, walls and locks, they're still very much public. Don't presume you're safe just because you can't see anyone else in your room.
- When you first check into a room, use all the locks available to you on the door. Chain locks and even those seemingly-impenetrable bar locks can all be easily disabled if someone can open the door itself. If the door has a deadbolt, make sure to turn it.
- Turn on all the lights in the room, and look at all the places where someone could hide. Hotel rooms have many hiding places if you think about it - the bathroom, under the bed, behind the curtains and in closets. Turn them all over and make sure that you're alone.
- Place tissue in the "peep hole" on the door if there is one.
- Never open the door to anyone that you don't know.
- And never presume that you're 100% safe when you're on unfamiliar ground.