20-21 September 2016, Select list of hotel security measures taken during Charlotte riots

Muir Analytics covered the Black Lives Matter-related political violence against hotels in Charlotte, North Carolina, here. Riots impacted at least seven hotels with several people assaulted, two shot (and one killed), many wounded, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage done.

Hotels in the downtown Charlotte business district rallied to defend themselves. Here is a select list of some of the security precautions they took:

  • Security/crisis management plans for many hotels were in place as early as 8:00 am before the second night of riots began. This meant that some hotels were collecting intelligence on the potential threat and could therefore prepare for it. This included alerting guests to the threat and providing them with security advice.
  • Extra security and hotel staff was brought in to provide a safe (as could be) environment and to tend to customers’ needs. Some hotels adopted, per standard operating procedure, the doctrine that “all staffers contribute to safety and security.”
  • As the violence swelled, hotel security in several instances moved guests out of lobby areas. Lobbies were shut down at many properties. At some locations, guests were moved to their rooms and/or larger gathering spaces on higher floors.
  • Several hotels maintained regular contact with guests and kept them aware of the riot threat as it developed, and they moreover provided updated security advice.
  • At least two hotels coordinated with police and provided them with some current intelligence on the rioters’ actions.
  • At the urging of more than one hotel, police set up defensive picket lines (more than 100 police at one hotel) to keep rioters from swarming into two different properties.
  • As the violence escalated, some hotels allowed police inside to confer with management and security, and they also provided police with a place to rest from the violence going on outside.
  • Despite having security plans in place and having talked with police, some hotels were so intimidated by the rioting and threats that they repeatedly called 911 for emergency assistance.
  • Events and conferences were canceled at several hotels, and some moved to alternate sites.
  • Hotels went on full lockdown status. No one was allowed in or out unless management sanctioned it.
  • Some pedestrians outside hotels that were caught up in the violence were offered safe shelter and rooms by some hotels.
  • Many hotels used lobby furniture as defensive barricades as a final, last line of defense to attempt to keep rioters out; rioters in the hundreds that had coagulated outside hotels and began banging on windows, taunting those inside.
  • During the day after the first riot, (and when more violence was expected the next night,) at least one hotel boarded up all of its street level windows to prevent more from being shattered and destroyed.
  • At least one hotel released press statements regarding their maintaining the safety and security of their patrons and staff, which helped family members of those inside the hotel with some kind of information relief, and it also protected the hotel’s brand name.

As far as Muir Analytics can tell, all impacted hotels seem to have responded in a calm, cool manner, and some released statements to the public, such as this one from the Omni, quoted by The Charlotte Observer: “The Omni Charlotte Hotel is safe and secure, and is currently operating as usual. We are continuing to stay close with local authorities to make sure we’re doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our guests and associates, which is our top priority.”

Forbes reported that a hotel staffer at the Ritz-Carlton said, “There’s no manual or protocol for when you think things are about to get dangerous. You just have a gut feeling and you have to listen to it. That’s what we’re trained to do. The safety and security of our guests are our top priority, and with something like this you have to make judgement calls every minute.” The anonymous staffer also said, “…Everyone in the hotel is a security guard when they’re needed and we’re all trained for these types of situations. It’s all about preparation.”

Overall, since the Charlotte hotels were, at the very least, decently prepared for the protests, their defenses against the riots were effective enough to keep property damage and assaults to a minimum. In situations like these, window smashing and hotel property vandalism are to be expected. Assaults on hotel staff are not uncommon. Some hotels were quite prepared for the violence, and all of them appear to have successfully protected their patrons.

At the same time, it is readily apparent that the police response and their defensive lines probably kept some hotels from being penetrated and sacked. These same police defenses certainly kept hotel patrons and staff from being physically assaulted, or worse.

It is critical for hotels to understand that riots such as those in Charlotte can get quickly out of control because of their frenzied nature and the tendency for mob rule/violence to “spread out” or diminish responsibility for acts of violence, at least in the minds of the rioters.

The fact that several hotels ended up barricading their lobbies with furniture indicates a desperate situation, a serious threat, and a lack of safety and security features engineered into the buildings to protect property, staffs, and patrons.

The largely successful security procedures applied during the Charlotte riots should be studied by other hotels and incorporated into crisis management planning. At the same time, these procedures can be added to and improved upon. More to the point, the Charlotte riots should cause hoteliers to prepare for harsher riot-style violence. For certain, defensive countermeasures enacted there were pushed to the brink, and ultimately, the police saved the day.

Sources and further reading:

Wichita cop an eyewitness to Charlotte protests,” The Wichita Eagle, 23 September 2016.

Businesses pick up the pieces after Charlotte riots,” WCNC, 22 September 2016.

Vandals hit NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte protests, exhibits unscathed,” The Charlotte Observer, 22 September 2016.

Charlotte leaders urge ‘business as usual,’ but some workers stay home,” The Charlotte Observer, 22 September 2016.

Cleaning up: Uptown hotel, office building managers on damage, security plans,” Charlotte Business Journal, 22 September 2016.

Uptown hotels regroup after a night of violence,” The Charlotte Observer, 22 September 2016.

Charlotte riot: State of emergency declared after protester shot in second night of clashes over North Carolina police shooting,” The Telegraph, 22 September 2016.

National Guard arrives in Charlotte after McCrory issues State of Emergency,” ABC 12NewsNow, 22 September 2016.

How Did The Ritz Carlton Hotel Protect Their Guests Last Night During The Charlotte Riots,” Forbes, 22 September 2016.

State of emergency declared, National Guard arrives in Charlotte following protests,” CBS WNCN, 21 September 2016.

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