When hoteliers become heroes

Don’t dismiss this hastily — it could happen to you.

On an unusually warm spring night at New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania, Security Supervisor Ruben Hernandez had just begun his shift when he received an urgent call for help. The call was for an unconscious male, not breathing and not showing a pulse. Ruben immediately removed the onsite automated external defibrillator (AED) from its box and responded to the location.

Upon arrival, he and fellow Security Officer Danny Sandoval began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). After numerous CPR attempts failed to revive the guest, Ruben made the decision to activate the AED and follow the steps given to him by the apparatus and from his training. After three attempts with the AED, Ruben was able to resuscitate the guest and stabilize him until the medics arrived.

The guest then went into recovery at a hospital where he received a pacemaker. For their actions, both Ruben and Danny received Hotel Pennsylvania “Superhero” trophies, and Ruben also received a generous gift certificate to replace his clothing, which had to be destroyed after the life-saving efforts.

Hernandez (right) with Nicotra
Hernandez (right) with Nicotra

I’ve long been friends with many senior managers at this hotel, including GM Eugene Nicotra, and I’ve been saving this story until the time was just right. This tale goes to show that hospitality comes with an implicit duty of care. When guests enter our halls, it is our responsibility to ensure their safety, whether that comes in the form of security, hygienic rooms, cleanly prepared food or procedures to save someone’s life.

It is especially important to train all team members appropriately in a large hotel with hundreds or thousands of guests (like Hotel Pennsylvania) because the professionals might not be able to reach an ailing guest in a timely manner. This is doubly true for sprawling resorts tucked away from urban centers by narrow, winding roads.

There are three immediate steps you can take in this regard. Start by getting your team trained in CPR and the use of the AED. CPR training should be reviewed annually, as the science behind it is constantly being updated, and undoubtedly we could all benefit from a quick reminder. Next, do drills to prepare your staff, and be sure to check response times to see if you are improving in the long run. Last, review your crisis-management protocols and lines of communication so emergency cases don’t disrupt operations or cause additional turmoil.

We are all hoteliers, but every once in a while we may be called upon to be heroes. Do right by your guests, and ensure your staff is properly trained to handle these emergency cases.