You just cannot make these stories up. What a case study for all hoteliers.
Here is the gist of the story. Guests at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Las Angeles had been complaining about the strength of the water flow in their rooms. A member of the Maintenance Department at some point went up to the roof to look at their four water cisterns and resolve the water flow problem. The body of a Canadian woman was discovered in one of the cisterns. Police have yet to determine whether the death is due to an accident or foul play.
The water tanks provide the water for all the guest rooms, as well as a restaurant on site. A “do not drink” order has been issued by the LA County Department of Public Health as the water is being analyzed for contamination. The body was in the cistern for perhaps three weeks, and guests of the hotel were using that water source for showers, brushing teeth, drinking, as well as the restaurant using the same source.
Good gracious, what do you do? Several things simultaneously. First, the guests. Meet with them, assure them that you are doing everything possible to address the situation, offer to find other accommodations for them (at your cost), even come up with another “gift” to assuage their memory of the situation. Be creative and generous here. Next, work with the City of Las Angeles to correct the situation. You want to get this as far and fast behind you as possible.
Then, review your own standards for water distribution and maintenance. As it turns out, to lodge oneself in a cistern at the Cecil Hotel really took some ambition. According to the Huffington Post, “The opening at the top of the cistern is too small to accommodate firefighters and equipment, so they had to cut a hole in the storage tank to recover Lam's body. The cisterns are on a platform at least 10 feet above the roof. To get to the tanks, someone would have to go to the top floor then take a staircase with a locked door and emergency alarm preventing roof access. Another ladder would have to be taken to the platform and a person would have to climb the side of the tank.”
Lastly, you have a PR nightmare at hand, and there must be a strategy created and executed, not only for your staff but also for the external dissemination of information. You do not want to be known as the “Cistern Hotel”. This is just an awful situation, yet many of our hotels have a similar cistern system in place. Not to raise an unnecessary ruckus, I would check the integrity of your water source and, certainly, the schedule for inspection.
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