Stepping Up Security in Hotels

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," October 25, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: That Iraqi terror group led by Zarqawi (search) in Iraq says it was behind the deadly attack on the Palestine and Sheraton hotels in Baghdad Monday. Three suicide car bombs struck the hotel complex killing at least 19 people. Iraqi and U.S. forces are securing the area and repairing a breach in the blast walls that surround the hotels.

So, if we step up security in hotels here in the U.S., should the measures for checking in be as strong or tough as the ones for getting on a plane? FOX's Jane Skinner is here with that story. Hi, Jane.

JANE SKINNER, CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John, thanks. Well, eventually, they may be as tough as getting on a plane. Hotels fall into the category of soft targets, meaning they are particularly easy to hit. After 9/11, you know, security experts told us just how vulnerable our hotels are in this country, but not much has been done. Why not?

Michael McCann knows. He is president of McCann Protective Services, an executive protection company. I hate to ask this, but is it all about money? How much that would cost to equip these hotels with more security measures?

MICHAEL MCCANN, MCCANN PROTECTIVE SERVICES: Oh, I think that's a big concern, is financially in the structure of the hotel, it may difficult for them to do everything they want. But finances are a big reason.

SKINNER: Because logistically, hotels are accessible places, by foot or by vehicle, so I can imagine that trying to protect them would be very difficult. You'd have to almost change the exterior in a lot of places.

MCCANN: Yes, so some of the hotels have entrances where the cars actually drive under it, the loading docks, the trucks enter the hotel. And the nature of the hotel itself, as you're bringing the public in, you're encouraging people to come in. You want them to get in easy.

SKINNER: So even if we think about having to go through metal detectors, things like that that we do at airports, if we had to do that as we were checking into a hotel, doesn't make a lot of sense for them to invest in that kind of thing? Because you'd still be right in the lobby of the hotel. I mean, it's almost as if they'd have to set back, like have barriers back, you know, 20, 30 feet in order to check in. Is that what we're going to go through someday?

MCCANN: Well, I think someday we probably will. But, less than a perfect world, there are a number of things that could be done. There are packages that come in that people send three weeks ahead of time, they send their luggage. Those packages could be checked. Packages that come in that are deliveries to guests or gifts, those things could be checked. So there are a number of things they could be doing right now that are short of this full-fledged effort of checking everything that goes into a hotel.

SKINNER: And I know one of your big suggestions is if you do have loading docks or vehicles that go underneath, that those should be checked especially carefully.

MCCANN: They should be checked. Or what you should do is close the loading dock and do the unloading from the street.

SKINNER: Is any of this going on in this country at hotels? In the big chains or even the smaller hotels?

MCCANN: Well, a lot of things have been done. Hotels have tightened up, they're paying more attention to the guests, they're paying more attention to the vendors and the people that work there. So they're doing a lot, according to those recommendations. But as far as the parking, there are only a few hotels that are changing the physical structure and moving the parking from underneath the hotel to outside and closing garages and checking the vehicles that come in.

SKINNER: Is it going to take an attack for hotels to beef up what they have?

MCCANN: Unfortunately, that's usually the case that most people react after something happens. So what I'm suggesting is that some of these things be done ahead of time. Do a threat assessment, look at the hotel, your particular setting, and decide what should be done to prevent something from happening.

SKINNER: All right. Michael McCann of McCann Protective Services. Mr. McCann, thanks very much. John.

GIBSON: Jane Skinner, thank you.

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