Chicago Hotels Roll Out Panic Button Systems To Protect Housekeepers From Sexual Harassment

By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The state hotel association has requested an extension of the deadline to install panic buttons in hotel rooms, concerned that implementation is proving more costly and complicated than anticipated.

CHICAGO

As Chicago hotels gear up for the busy summer tourist season, they are pushing to meet a July 1 deadline to supply their housekeepers with panic buttons.

The portable buttons, mandated in an ordinance that won unanimous City Council approval in October, allow employees to instantly summon help if they are sexually assaulted or harassed by a guest, a job hazard worker advocates say is more common than most people realize.

The state hotel association has requested an extension of the deadline, concerned that implementation is proving more costly and complicated than anticipated. But some local hoteliers have embraced the responsibility.

“It’s a nice add-on to our already communicative environment,” said Mitch Langeler, vice president of talent and culture at SMASHotels, a hospitality management company that runs theWit in the Loop, Fairfield Inn and Suites in Streeterville and the boutique hotel EMC2. “Anything that keeps our employees safe, or more safe, is absolutely welcomed.”

EMC2, a 195-room hotel in Streeterville, rolled out a panic button system when it opened a year ago, Langeler said.

Anyone whose job requires entering guest rooms alone, not only housekeepers, but also engineering and room service staff, receives a button fob at the start of their shift to wear around their neck on a lanyard, plus an iPod that interacts with the hotel’s existing communication system to track their location.

When the button is pressed, a message instantaneously goes to the cellphones of supervisors, including the general manager, director of security and director of human resources, that includes the device number, the name of the employee in distress and room number where she is located.

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