Hotel Bombing in Jakarta – A Dangerous Trend

The hotel bombings yesterday were a bad sign. According to an article this morning in USA TODAY, both hotels had been assessed by iJet, a security and intelligence company based in Annapolis, and had received high ratings, said iJet president Bruce McIndoe. The fact that Friday’s blast didn’t do more damage shows those measures were effective, McIndoe said.

“(With) the new security procedures, all they could do is get suicide bombers in and blow out some windows,” he said. “You can’t stop it — there’s no 100% foolproof way. But they’ve minimized the impact. It was a fairly sophisticated operation. (The terrorists) put a lot of time and effort into this, with very little outcome (in terms of ) death and destruction.”

McIndoe is correct that there wasn’t a catastrophic loss of life in these bombings and the damage was relatively minimal. I started to review some of my hotel experiences and see how much security COULD you put into an international business hotel. If the bombers took the bombs right up their rooms in their suitcases — there are a couple of obvious next steps.

1. All luggage gets turned over to hotel staff at the curb, or entry area, and
then is screened in an anteroom before it is taken up to the room by the hotel security staff. That seems to be a relatively easy program to implement, and would dramatically improve security.

2. Bring in the x-ray scanners and all visitors go thru the metal detector and have luggage, briefcases and shopping bags inspected upon entering the hotel. This would be more expensive and intrusive, but probably more effective and just one more travel inconvenience to get used to.

We have a model developed for hotel and casino security. The hotel/hospitality model is a little more complicated than your average business facility because it has more than one purpose. What I mean is that a business is usually set up to conduct business — but a hotel/casino has several lines of business including overnight room business; gambling; shops; restaurant business and also meeting business. All these have different objectives and they are influence the other business lines.

The maids, maintenance personnel, engineers, waitresses, cooks, etc., are all local elements that could potentially be used to gain access for terrorism purposes. Everyone has a cousin somewhere that may use family ties to get access to even a secure facility. The stowaways that get into ships, are almost always the result of the exploitation of family ties.

Better background checks conducted on hotel personnel may be another area that needs work, and would probably improve the hotel’s bottom line because other areas such as cash-handling and letting friends access empty rooms could also be improved at the same time.

Having stricter access controls and luggage/package controls at hotels would just extend the aggravation of current airport security programs right to your next hotel. Let’s hope it doesn’t come too soon.