One thing that no-one admits to you when you go into the hotel trade is that people die, and they may well die on your shift or in your premises. And when this does happen, no-one ever tells you what to do, shock generally takes over and there tends to be a bit of an eclectic commotion whilst someone tries to figure out what to do.
I have seen several people die in hotels, whether this is me being unfortunate or it’s just right place wrong time, I don’t know. But it has taught me a lot about dealing not only with the fact that someone has died on site, but also how to deal with the surrounding public and the relatives.
So I thought I would pass this experience on to help others know what to do and how to respond to such a dramatic turn of events. The first time I knew that people actually died in hotels was when my sister came home from her housekeeping job early, after most of the staff were sent home when a male guest was discovered to have committed suicide within the hotel. I was 14 at the time and this was pretty much the first time that I realised that hotels were not only hard work, but that not everyone always walked back out after their stay. The gentleman who died had checked in anonymously, left no identifiable information and paid cash. No-one knew who he truly was and despite various media publicity, it seems that to this day he may not have been formally identified and his family informed, and I still think about this from time to time as this is the incident that made me realise that hotels are not always safe havens where everything is perfect and everyone is happy.
I know, from experience, that dealing with someone dying in a hotel environment is stressful, scary, and can fill you full of fear and panic. So here are my steps to dealing with the death of a guest, irrespective of where in the hotel it is.
Prepare Yourself! You may never have experienced a death or seen a dead body before and it is a scary, bewildering experience the first time. If the incident is the first time you have dealt with an incident like this, try to let someone else do the majority of incident handling unless there is no other choice but for you to deal with it. I would strongly recommend that if you have to deal with this and have no other choice that you be fully prepared for what you can usually expect:
A dead body. This is to be expected and contrary to popular belief, if the cause of death is sudden and not related to severe injury or bleeding, there is generally little to be afraid of. Remember that if you need to touch the body for any reason, such as checking for a pulse, then you should wear a pair of medical or latex gloves.
Distressed people. This may be staff, it may be relatives, it may be friends. No matter who they are they will generally be distressed by the discovery or even witness of a death.
Potential danger. The death may be due to a dangerous piece of equipment or similar, so do not just blindly charge in; make sure it is safe to enter a room first!
Remain Calm – it is difficult to do this, but if you are accustomed to working in hotels for years, allow your professional facade to take over and run the show. You will be shocked, and you will be distressed but you must not panic under any circumstances as panic spreads extraordinarily quickly! All comments you make must be spoken in a calm, measured tone (even if your voice is shaky). If you need to take a break to re-compose yourself, explain this to another staff member of available and confirm you are okay to just take a break for a few minutes.