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Fentanyl + Hotel Related Incidents

Our Summary Paper, Fentanyl + Hotel Related Incidents, was prepared in conjunction with our presentation at the May 2023 HospitalityLawyer.Com conference in Houston, Texas.

The audience demographics represent in-house hospitality counsel, outside counsel with a specialty in hospitality law, risk managers and insurers. Continuing Legal Education Credits are earned for this presentation.

Presented By:

Brad Bonnell, Principal Hotel Security Group, LLC

Salvatore Caccavale, Principal Global Hospitality Security Solutions, LLC

Sherri Foster, Extended Stay America Management

The increasing and illicit production and use of Fentanyl and other opioids for non-medicinal purposes has brought heightened awareness to the hospitality industry, in part, due to the potential life-threatening risks attributed with these drugs by hotel employees who service and maintain guest rooms.

While the economy hotel sector may offer loft-style accommodations with limited hotel services and amenities, and at a considerably lower room rate, this hotel market has the potential to attract persons with nefarious behavior as it relates to using their guest room for cooking or making or distributing illegal drugs. Conversely, full-service hotels, particularly near cancer treatment facilities, and where there is an abundance of plastic surgeons, attract hotel guests who are undergoing medical treatment, elective or otherwise, and choose to convalesce in a more comfortable environment compared to a hospital atmosphere. Often, physicians prescribe a pain reliever in the form of a patch applied to the skin that releases Fentanyl, pain medication. Regardless of the hotel sector, both require similar awareness and education for hotel employees, primarily for those employees who have access to and work in guest rooms and for those hotel first responders who may render assistance during a guest’s medical episode, such as rescue breathing.

Consider employee educational sessions on the topic of Fentanyl to include, at a minimum, descriptions of the drug, intended uses (medicinal and recreational), no odor, various colors of the drug, absorption methods, and levels of lethal toxicity. Fentanyl is often used with other drugs to enhance the recreational users high, or experience. Employees must be strongly urged to refrain from consuming any food or beverage, including candy, that was left in a checked-out guest room. For those hotels that intentionally accommodate or house recovering drug users, additional emphasis must be provided on the subject matter when training their employees. Consider using local law enforcement as an avenue when preparing and designing guidance for hotel employees.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) are tools used to provide basic protection from harm. Employees who access guest rooms and while entering a guest room are reminded to use their hotel issued goggles and latex gloves to reduce the possibility of coming in to contact with Fentanyl. Those hoteliers trained in life-saving techniques are pressed to follow the earlier guidance when responding to medical episodes. Be cognizant of Fentanyl or other drugs when responding to guest room medical episodes and assess if it is safe to render first aid or to back away from the room and dial 911.

In August 2021, an 18-month old child while staying with her family at a home rental in Florida, died as a result of Fentanyl overdose. The family of the deceased alleges that previous home renters were using recreational drugs which contained Fentanyl and the home was not thoroughly cleaned by the cleaning service which left trace amounts of Fentanyl on hard surfaces.

September 2022, a 12-year old died in her hotel room in Firestone, California, as a result of her mother’s alleged manufacturing and distribution of Fentanyl laced drugs from that same guest room, and the daughter unknowingly coming in contact with Fentanyl.

These two incidents are tragic, and reflect the potential and hazardous situations that hotel employees are now faced with while performing a somewhat innocuous task while servicing and maintaining a hotel guest room. These reflections identify the immediate requirement for Fentanyl and other dug related trainings to heighten their awareness and to protect hotel employees from harm.

Naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan, is a prescription nasal spray medicine used for the treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose. Narcan is to be given right away and does not take the place of emergency medical care. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Narcan to be sold as an over-the-counter medication effective late summer 2023. This, in part, comes to fruition as a result of public health officials and advocacy groups’ insistence to render expeditious first aid to those in a Fentanyl episode.

In May 2019, the Green, Ohio local government purchased and supplied Narcan emergency kits for four hotels in their city as a result of a Fentanyl overdose death that occurred in one of the hotels. Open internet sources reflect other cities discussing the undertaking of similar positions in providing Narcan emergency kits in public venues.

Remediation of a guest room involving Fentanyl, or some other illicit drug is costly. Hotel employees are not trained or certified by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on how to clean an area where these drugs were used. Remediation must be provided by a licensed and insured company with workers who are OSHA credentialed in Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER), a 40-hour certification (29 CFR 1910.120).

Some instances of remediation will result in the loss of the soft goods in the guest room and potentially hard goods too. In extreme cases, the guest room or area may be stripped of its drywall and ceiling due to the permeation of the airborne Fentanyl contaminants. Health officials may direct the hotel to remediate adjoining guest rooms as a precaution, again, under dangerous instances. Portions of the hotel, if not all of the hotel, may require evacuation during remediation due to potential health hazards. In August 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a 64-page document titled Voluntary Guidelines for Methamphetamine and Fentanyl Laboratory Cleanup. This reference material will offer insight on what to expect during remediation should their hotel have the unfortunate situation of being used for illicit drug incidents.

Hoteliers should consult with their insurance carrier and / or broker to assess if there is sufficient coverage, if any, for loss of business and the costly remediation and replacement of soft and hard guest rooms goods and potential demolition.

Addressing these concerns, and any legal action, is time consuming, complicated, and costly to the insurance carrier and the hotel. As important is the brand and reputation and negative media that will likely shower down on that hotel. Identifying and agreeing to knowingly house recovering addicts may lessen the hotel’s exposure, and strongly consider the hotel’s current clientele will provide a safe work environment for employees. Work with local law enforcement to help identify remedies to dissuade guests with unsavory notions and to better educate hotel employees in preventing harm as a result of being exposed to drug use.

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