Industry Update
Opinion Article 6 May 2019

The So-Called Minimum Legal Requirements for Panic Button Mandates

By Einar Rosenberg, CIO at Creating Revolutions

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On August 1st, the city of Miami Beach, Florida will require all hotels to implement "Employee Safety Devices, AKA Panic Buttons, AKA Staff Alert" in their properties. Miami Beach is important because it will induce a 12-month domino effect, in which all hotels across the USA will be required to implement Employee Safety Devices.

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The Miami Beach hotel mandate is basically the same as every other city, county, state, union, or industry mandate across the US, which are requiring Employee Safety Devices mainly focused at hotel housekeepers.

Miami happens to be my hometown and I love it and our hotel industry greatly. This gives me unique insight and perception as I have been front and center to the Miami Beach Hotel mandate, as well as other hotels across the country for similar mandates.

Even though Miami Beach hotels have had about one year to prepare for this legal mandate, many hotels are still scrambling to figure out what to do. To compound the issue, some industry people are adding to the confusion by misrepresenting what are the so called "Minimum Legal Requirements" for the mandate. I have had Miami Beach hotel executives tell me that they are "only legally required to give their employees an audible device like a whistle." Another executive at a different hotel told me that "location precision was not legally required." And I just heard yesterday, from yet another hotel about a vendor whom claimed "that location precision of the employee isn't legally required at all."

Honestly, beyond the legalities and risk, the logic of these comments is absurd. But debating the logic and risk isn't what we are discussing here. We are discussing the legalities, so let's look at the Miami Beach ordinance itself. Below is the definition of a Safety Device, as defined in the ordinance.

"Safety button or notification device means a portable emergency contact device that is designed so that an employee can quickly and easily activate such button or device to effectively summon prompt assistance to the employee's location by a hotel or hostel security officer, manager or other appropriate hotel or hostel staff member designated by the hotel or hostel employer."
Based on the input of multiple legal authorities and in an effort to fully clarify the mandate language, it all comes down to one line:

"to effectively summon prompt assistance to the employee's location by a hotel or hostel security officer………"

How do you measure and define the concept of "summon prompt assistance"?

Let us explore two key points from this line.

Point 1 :
The word "prompt" in the ordinance is aligned to the concept of time. Time is a measurement - and in the world of security, such as police departments or private security services, this measurement is titled "Response Time."

The Oxford English Dictionary defines promptly to mean "readily, quickly, directly, at once, without a moment's delay." But more to the point, courts have uniformly held that promptness is a function of circumstances.

Black's Law Dictionary states that the meaning of promptly "depends largely on the facts in each case, for what is 'prompt' in one situation may not be considered such under other circumstances or conditions."

Here are three representative cases that were gathered by Ken Adams, concerning the legal understanding of the word promptly:

  • State v. Chesson, 948 So.2d 566, 568 (Ala. Civ. App. 2006) (stating that the term "promptly" has been construed to mean within a reasonable time in light of all the circumstances).
  • Doe Fund, Inc. v. Royal Indemnity Co., 825 N.Y.S.2d 450, 451 (N.Y. App. Div. 2006) ("notice of an occurrence or action be given promptly, that means within a reasonable time in view of all of the facts and circumstances.").
  • Buck v. Scalf, No. M2002-00620-COA-R3-CV, 2003 WL 21170328, at *5 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 20, 2003) ("It has generally been held that the terms 'promptly' or 'prompt notice' mean that notice must be given within a reasonable time in view of all the facts and circumstances of the case.").

Point 2 :
Now that we understand that "circumstance" defines the velocity of prompt, let us better understand the circumstance of the Miami Beach Hotel mandate. Both federal and local courts consider the act of violent crimes as the highest of circumstance, which is what the mandate defines as well.

Because the purpose of this mandates is to address violent crimes of sexual assault, it requires the highest velocity possible. Therefore, accuracy of the "Location" becomes extremely important. If you create difficulty or encumber the speed of prompt assistance in this circumstance, you are creating liability for your business under this ordinance.

Why so?

Let's say you are only distinguishing location accuracy of your device within a floor or even a grouping of rooms. Therefore, after the device gets activated, the security officer must check each of those rooms until they find the employee in distress. That lack of accuracy delays speed of service. Not to mention that a hotel is creating even more problems by making the security officer or manager inspect room to room and disturbing other paying guests.

The reality is that location accuracy is not only a legal necessity, but also a business necessity to run a hotel without introducing elements of chaos such as disruption of rooms that are within the area of location accuracy. The only way to overcome this is with precision.

Now that the legal stuff is cleared up, let us just look at all this as human beings.

This mandate is more important that most hotel executives realize. According to the Department of Justice, our industry has the highest rate of Sexual Assault compared to any other industry in the US. The reason you don't hear about it every day, is the same reason you don't hear about every single person shot in America daily. And because a high percentage of hotel housekeepers are minorities in lesser situations, these crimes are highly under reported.

These victims could be your Mother, Sister, Wife, Girlfriend, or Daughter.

Do you really want to give them the supposed minimum legal requirement when it comes to their safety?

Luckily the minimum legal requirement, mandates you implement a tool that makes sure your employees can:

  1. Easily Call for Help.
  2. Give security a high accuracy of the employee's location to quickly reach them.
  3. Make sure that security always has a consistent Response Time in reaching the employee in need.

Link Below to Miami Beach Ordinance

Einar Rosenberg

With 15 years as a global leader and innovator in Near Field Communication (NFC) and Mobile Payment technologies, Einar Rosenberg is among the world’s top 10 authorities in the disciplines. He holds dozens of patents in a broad array of industries, including security, payment, vending, retail service, medical, and others.

    More from Einar Rosenberg

    About Creating Revolutions

    At Creating Revolutions, we set out to create Revolutionary, NOT Evolutionary, technology for the Hospitality Industry. The service industry has been known for replacing hard working employees with technology. But we see your team as the core of your business. We made it our mission to create tools that enhance your employee's productivity, while giving your managers the peace of mind knowing your guests are being serviced fast and efficiently.

    Creating Revolutions has recently released Employee Security, a vastly smarter and more effecient option to the traditional panic button. Contact us for more information: [email protected]

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