‘Tis the season for consumers to buy presents, take advantage of bonus deals, and prep for upcoming holiday festivities. That’s great news for malls, stores, and retail outlets to start getting into the holiday spirit.
But with those larger crowds comes increased danger and increased responsibility for your security officers and staff. When crowds are exponentially larger, emergency situations such as potential threats and natural disasters become even harder to deal with. But sadly, most businesses that deal with large seasonal crowds do not have adequate emergency procedures or evacuation plans in place.
A report on mall security funded by the US Department of Justice, stated that, “Safety drills to test the staff’s knowledge of what to do in emergencies—when done at all—are seldom rigorous, seldom done with first responders, and are usually done without clear standards to measure their success.” Recent incidents in the news have shown that shopping mall employees are not receiving proper crisis training. One article mentioned when shots were fired in a mall, many of the store employees were frightened and unwittingly locked themselves in their store’s back office. Most first responders would probably agree that barricading yourself in the back office would not really stop an armed person from getting through a locked door if they really wanted to get to you.
You’re probably thinking, “Well how can I help make my business safer for my employees and patrons?” In a CNN article, Dan Murphy, a retired Bloomington, Minnesota police officer states, “Businesses can do a better job protecting customers..” but “..it takes time, commitment and the willingness to create and work through your plan.” Murphy implemented the mall “lock-down” plans for Mall of America, one of the nations largest shopping malls. Twice a month mall security directs patrons to seek shelter in the nearest store, alarms buzz, and a “lock-down” message is electronically delivered to each store. This triggers the store employees to lower their gates, turn off their lights and shoppers can then huddle in the back of the store.
The US Department of Justice report goes on to say, “None of the malls we visited had developed ways to coordinate with first responders in the event of an emergency. The only means of communicating with first responders was by phone.” This report on mall safety also explained how in only one mall they visited, security could communicate with tenants via two-way radio. But in all other malls in the study, the sole means of communication between mall security and tenants was by phone. Using two-way radios as part of your company’s safety drills will greatly improve response time and help to alert stores and shoppers in the event of a real crisis. Thorough and repetitive training is the key to any safety or evacuation plan.
No matter what kind of business you’re in, if you are experiencing a large amount of patrons during the holidays, you are responsible for their safety. Develop a healthy working relationship with your local police and fire departments and work together to plan out your crisis response actions. Be sure to use professional communication equipment like two-way radios with emergency signaling features and wireless PA systems to coordinate your staff’s actions while training and during a real emergency.
Murphy says that lock-down drills are not a silver bullet that will protect your business from emergencies, “But if the Mall of America can do it, with its 500 stores, huge eatery, and indoor amusement park, your business can do it too.”
To see the mall security report funded by the US Department of Justice and recommendations on how to improve security, click here: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/216641.pdf
Dan Murphy content is from CNN.com article The Simple Thing Your Mall Can do to Protect You: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/28/us/shopping-mall-security/