Panic Buttons: A Lifeline for Hotel Workers

Hotel workers are disproportionately the targets of guest abuse. From verbal altercations to sexual harassment, hospitality staff are often vulnerable to unsafe situations. Learn how IoT-enabled panic buttons are a simple way to allow employees to send a distress signal and receive quick backup.

Problematic Guest Behavior

While there is no federal law currently that requires panic buttons for housekeepers, a number of ordinances are already in place. New York City has required panic buttons in all unionized hotels since 20121. Individual hotels in Las Vegas, several major hospitality chains, the states of Illinois and New Jersey, plus cities like Long Beach and Oakland in California and Seattle, Washington have all adopted “hands off, pants up” measures.

The necessity of panic buttons was underscored in a 2016 sexual harassment survey of female hotel workers in Chicago2. The results were alarming:

  • 49% of housekeepers have had “guest(s) expose themselves, flash them, or answer the door naked. A number of women reported that guests had masturbated in their presence.” Lewd jokes, innuendos, playing pornography, and requests for sex were also widely reported.
  • 58% had been victims of sexual harassment from guests, including sexual assault.

Housekeeping staff are vulnerable to these encounters because cleaning rooms is an isolated activity. A hotel room is private, lacks surveillance cameras, and is a tight, enclosed space. Housekeepers often work a floor by themselves, reducing the likelihood of a witness. Even in large hotels, housekeepers assigned in pairs could be a block away from each other at the opposite end of the same floor3.

Fast, discrete communication is needed whenever and wherever a housekeeper feels threatened. A room phone is insufficient as it may not be physically or quickly accessible in a heated moment. And a housekeeper may not want to reach for a radio or cellphone either, which could escalate a guest’s behavior. A panic button is an easier, safer option.

How Does A Panic Button Work?

A panic button is a small, portable device that emits an electronic signal over a wireless network such as Bluetooth, cellular, LoRa (long range), or WiFi. They can be attached to lanyards, clothing, or housekeeping carts. They can also be mounted inside a utility closet. Panic buttons are equipped with GPS, so they function like a 24/7 homing beacon.

These panic buttons are not the audible kind that blare like a car alarm. When pressed, an SOS alert with the employee’s specific location is silently dispatched to another hotel staffer. This person may be an on-site security officer, manager, or front desk clerk with appropriate training4. The alert can include the employee’s name or an ID number.

Hotel managers will need to thoroughly plan out this communication sequence, accounting for contingencies if a manager is off duty or a security officer is already occupied with another incident.

Panic buttons are practical because they can be issued to any hotel worker with responsibilities away from public areas. In addition to housekeepers, they can be useful for anyone delivering room service, cleaning restrooms, maintaining parking lots and grounds, and even bartenders or wait staff.

Because panic buttons are a connected device, they fall under Internet of Things (IoT). This means it would be prudent to double check the strength of your WIFI network when implementing this safety technology. Any dead spots might create a delay if a panic button is triggered. A WiFi booster can help strengthen your network and ensure strong signal coverage throughout the hotel. You might also consider adding a LoRA router that uses WiFi as cloud communication. Because LoRA connectivity is measured in miles, it has incredible building penetration that can surpass standalone WiFi coverage.

Panic buttons are a useful, effective way to create a safer workplace. They empower hotel staff to instantaneously report issues and receive the swift protection they deserve. It’s just another way that IoT devices can solve difficult problems and create important change.  

Our panic button recommendation is the TEKTELIC SafeAlert Sensor. Our staff would be happy to chat about how to implement this solution in your facility. Call 1-319-294-6080 to get started!


  1. https://hotelworkers.org/article/htc-was-first-now-the-panic-button-idea-is-catching-on
  2. https://www.handsoffpantson.org/wp-content/uploads/HandsOffReportWeb.pdf
  3. https://www.handsoffpantson.org/protecting-and-respecting-women/
  4. https://chicago.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3025158&GUID=06801462-1105-4464-84D8-CAA0C11CEECE&Options=Advanced&Search=&FullText=1

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