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Staying safe downroute

by Captain Martin Drake BALPA NEC

For many pilots, hotel rooms are a second home. Travelling the world brings with it the need to stay in various locations. But when you arrive, tired and ready for a well-deserved rest, it is easy to overlook some of the dangers around you. But there are some things that people who regularly stay in hotels need to be aware of, and some easy things you can do to ameliorate any likely problems. 

In your own home you probably think carefully about security and fire safety. This should also be the case when you are in a hotel. So here are some top tips:

On arrival at the hotel:

Watch unloading of all your personal belongings

Keep a close eye on your bags and personal belongings. Many hotel lobbies are easily accessed by the public and unattended bags are easy pickings for thieves. We wonder if you would notice one crew bag missing out of perhaps twenty before it was too late. Thieves also substitute bags leaving an empty one.

Do not discuss room assignments in public

You never know who is listening and your room number is a matter of personal security. Be aware of your surroundings, monitor the people in and around the lobby area and exit the lobby area as soon as possible

At your room:

Consider where your room is 

Consider the location of your room as this can affect everything from the likelihood of someone stealing from you to the ease of escape in a fire. Ground floor rooms are particularly susceptible to thefts as people can accesses them very easily. It may be an idea to request a different room or be particularly cautious about leaving windows/doors open, even when you are in the room. 

Inspect your room

It is always a good idea to inspect your room on arrival, not just to make sure the coffee has been topped up, Does the window lock, is the door working correctly, does the phone work, has it got a smoke detector (this list is not exhaustive).

Keep an eye on your possessions

How aware of your possessions are you when you go or breakfast or dinner? It is easy to feel complacent and leave a phone or iPad on your table while you top up on the buffet. But leaving items unattended makes you a much easier target for an opportunistic thief. Keep your eye on your stuff! In your room, keep your valuables in the safe, where fitted.

Consider fire safety

When you check in to your room it is always a good idea to think about your escape should there be a fire. If you are on a lower floor the escape may be easy through a window or balcony. But what if you are on the 20th floor? The higher up the building you are the greater difficulty emergency services would have reaching you in a crisis. It is vital that you familiarise yourself with the escape route. Would you know where to go should there be a fire and the corridor as full of smoke? 

Just like on an aircraft it is a good idea to make sure you know the escape route before an emergency arises. It is vital that you familiarise yourself with where fire escapes are in relation to your room. Would you know where to go should it be dark or smoke clogged? Have you checked that the exit is clear and unobstructed? What would you do if you couldn’t reach the primary escape route? 

Escaping a fire from your home in the dark may be problem enough but escaping from an unfamiliar room high up in a hotel that you don’t know the layout of could be extremely difficult or impossible. Do you turn left or right when exiting your room, how many doors are there to the fire escape?

Double lock the door when you are in the room

When you are at home it may be second nature to put a security chain across the door before you go to bed, or to shut the windows before you fall asleep. But do you think to do this in a hotel? You never know who may have a key to your door and it isn’t just about the embarrassment of potentially being caught in the buff when someone comes to turn down the bed! You never know who may have malicious intentions. A good safety measure is to ensure your door is locked, from the inside where possible, before you go sleep to avoid any unwanted intruders. Use available deadbolts/security chains where available, and consider keeping a plastic door wedge in your suitcase for additional security in dodgy areas. Also check the locks on the windows/balcony door.

Watch out for the remote control

Be wary of using the remote – it’s likely to be the germiest thing in the room. Slide it into one of those small clean trash bags or wrap it in a wash cloth before pressing the buttons. Headset wipes are also useful in this regard, don’t forget the telephone.

Outside of your hotel room: 

Do all to you can to put of opportunist thieves 

Consider leaving the TV or radio on in the room when you go out. Hang the ’Do Not Disturb‘ sign on the door and lock your luggage. Dress to blend in with environment, do not act like an obvious tourist. Avoid wearing expensive jewellery or carrying phones/computers with you. 
Lock the items you won’t be carrying with you, such as your laptop or other electronics, in the room safe. If you are concerned about the safe, then ask to place the items in the hotel safe. 

Tell someone where you are going 

It is a good idea to let a fellow crewmember know where you go, with whom you are and when you intend come back. That way they will be aware should anything happen. 

Be travel savvy 

Take a scan of your passport, birth certificate, driving and flying licenses and email them to yourself this could come in very handy if you need evidence to establish your credentials

Whatever you do when out and about in slip stations carry some form of ID with you in a separate location from your purse or wallet. It took one of our colleagues a long time to be identified when they were knocked down by a rogue tuk tuk, in one of our hot and steamy destinations as there was nothing in the t-shirt, shorts and flipflops  
In unfamiliar places avoid travelling alone. Ignore any attempt by locals to provoke an argument. Do not accept food or drink from strangers and never carry your original passport, only a photocopy

Most of the time a stay away from home will be a routine experience. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to be prepared… just in case.