Handling Guest Deaths in a Hotel

By: kevinjames@oculustraining.com | On: July 22, 2013 | In: Coaching, Cory Monteith, Death, Employee Management, Handling Emotion, Handling Guest Death, Human Resources, No Comments

Handing Guest Deaths

Learn more about handling guest deaths in your hotel.


Death: it’s an inevitable part of the life cycle. It comes to all of us, and unfortunately for hotel staff, guests are no exception. At some point or another, you may discover someone that has passed away during their stay with you. How do you deal with such a situation?

We are reminded of the recent passing of the ‘Glee’ star Cory Monteith in a local Vancouver hotel. Such events demonstrate the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. We have no doubt that the staff at the Fairmont Pacific Rim handled the situation with utmost professionalism. Do you have an up-to-date strategy available for your team members to follow?


When your team members, most likely the housekeeping departments, are unfortunate enough be the first response to a scene, it is important that you review with them the standard procedures that your location has in place for them. If the responder is qualified to perform first aid, they should attempt to resuscitate the individual. When unsuccessful, they must contact 911 and/or the department manager. Every hotel should have their own in-depth standard operating procedure for their staff to follow. It should detail the team member’s first course of action and first contact.


Management will be able to deal with the police and medical personnel, but it is essential that they have a strategy for dealing with the team members as well, who are bound to have a lot of questions. If those questions are left unanswered, staff will take the discussion into their hands. In order to promote a respectful and controlled environment in the midst of such a emergency, sit with your team members and walk them through the next steps. It would be a mistake for management to ignore the inquisitive nature of staff and allow the rumour mill to run its course.


The first conversation should be with the individual who found the deceased. Obtain all of the information regarding the discovery, but also try to ascertain the team member’s state of mind. Finding a deceased guest unexpectedly can be extremely stressful and traumatic for anyone. It is important to understand how your team member is feeling and to provide them with the opportunity to discuss what has happened and how they feel about the experience. Employees may not want to place a lot of attention on their own feelings in the midst of the chaos that can ensue in such a discovery, but it is necessary to encourage your team members to speak honestly and openly about their own thought processes.


We would recommend providing the individual a few days’ paid leave to gather their thoughts and feelings. The additional advantage of doing this would be to control office gossip and to ensure that any questions regarding the experience is handled by management. The added pressure of having to respond to the constant questions of fellow team members can be stressful for the individual who may just want to move past the experience.


And looking at it from a different angle, the loved ones of the deceased would want their privacy respected during such a tragedy. They do not have to be the family and friends of a celebrity like Cory Monteith to be the subject of gossip. It is important to reiterate to all team members and management that this experience should not be discussed with the press, other guests or even among team members. It is always a smart action to assign one person who will handle any incoming questions from the public, family or staff regarding the emergency. The details surrounding the experience are better controlled by a single point of contact who should be equipped with the details and well-versed in all policies and procedures.


We would recommend calling a short employee meeting to review the details, respond to any questions and to provide direction on the next steps. Having most of your team members in a group forum will ensure that the same message is being communicated and that the entire team is clear on what to do and how to return to normal operations.


By taking the steps to communicate with your team members, you will guarantee that the right details (if any) are being released and that directly affected staff have the opportunity to express themselves. Be proactive in this emergency situation to avoid improper communications, employee absence due to stress and workplace gossip.


Find out more about our training programs at Oculus and handling guest deaths.!

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