With millions of people flowing through them on a daily basis, each with their own agendas and objectives, shopping centres and malls are ever-increasing security and safety headaches. While the “typical” day at a shopping centre is usually a fun-filled and pleasant experience (or a stressful and tiring chore, depending on one’s perspective), any untoward eventuality whether accidental or intended can become a potential crisis, or worse, a mass-casualty incident if not handled in the proper manner.
Most shopping centres have dedicated security officers and personnel (usually from third-party security management firms) who are tasked with the safety and security of the establishment. However, these security officers cannot do it alone. A shopping centre’s very own staff and employees are integral to its overall security and safety; they are the people who know the most about the ins and outs of the establishment and, along with dedicated security personnel, are critical in identification, early management, and resolution of potential crises.
While shopping centres are melting pots of people of varying backgrounds, cultures and objectives, these establishments are certain to attract clientele of certain demographics and profiles based on what the shopping centre has to offer. Because shopping centre personnel know what is “normal” around their vicinity by virtue of habit and familiarity, they are more probable to identify when something or someone is out of place when given more focused training.
A person trying to be evasive or trying to hide hands in his or her oversized coat’s pockets (shoplifter?), a mysterious box left unattended at an unusual place (improvised explosive device?), or a supposedly off-limits entrance that appears to have been forced open (potential terrorists?) – all of these may escape the casual observer or the everyday shopper, but properly trained personnel have the potential to identify these situations and initiate the proper response before the situation gets worse.
Perhaps one of, if not the most common conflict in the day of a shopping centre is the irate client. While seemingly minor in the greater scheme of things, mishandling such situations can quickly escalate, causing inconvenience to other clients and staff, and can be a source of bad publicity and lost income for the business.
Another common scenario is a seemingly personal dispute between clients or groups of clients – which may or may not escalate into a physical encounter. While it is probably beyond the jurisdiction of the shopping centre staff to settle the details of these disputes, ensuring that such incidents will not result to damage to property or harm to other clients is often the most desirable goal.
Training shopping centre staff to handle these situations properly are a must.
Crowd control is a critical skill that shopping centre personnel must be proficient at. A crowd of people with general intentions of having a fun, relaxing time will almost certainly panic when given news of any untoward incident (such as a bomb scare or fire) or suddenly placed in tenuous situations (like a sudden power outage or explosion). Directing a panicked crowd is no easy task and must be undertaken by highly trained personnel who are able to stay calm under pressure and think quickly to ensure the safety of everyone in the area.
Crowd control is also critical for shopping centres when holding major events, like concerts, sales, and gatherings for special occasions or holidays. Managing more than the usual number of clients and patrons creates its own issues: areas that are usually low-risk for security may become high-risk, and areas that are normally high-risk may become even more nightmarish. Fortunately, additional security personnel is also usually brought in for such events to help with crowd control. Even then, it takes detailed planning and training in crowd control to successfully pull off special events without any major incident.
Injuries and accidents can happen anywhere, and even more so in populous, crowded places like shopping centres. With the leading cause of death in Australia being heart disease, shopping centre personnel should be trained to administer basic life support (BLS, also known as CPR) and trained to use automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) and activate the cascade for advanced medical care.
Other relevant first-aid skills may include how to apply splints and bandages, wound dressings and how to immobilize patients that have fallen and potentially incurred a hip fracture or spine fracture. These are especially significant injuries in Australia’s over 4 million elderly population (age over 65 years old), of which about 30% experience at least one fall per year.
Teaching self-defence techniques to most (if not all) employees and staff adds an additional layer of security and safety to shopping centres. Visible security can be evaded, and most instigators would be careful around them; if they have no knowledge that a non-security staff is also able to employ effective self-defence techniques it is possible that these instigators will become overconfident and sloppy. Self-defence techniques may not stop a fully-armed, fully-trained instigator (or group of instigators) from causing harm to others, but in most situations, personnel who are able to employ effective self-defence techniques against common crooks and brigands may be enough of a deterrent.
In a high-traffic public place such as shopping centres, the implementation of security and risk management will be better implemented when all personnel are prepared and equipped to handle or at least properly assess security situations themselves. They must be alert and composed enough to be able to guide shoppers on what to do next if needed.
Prosek Security knows the need for security protocols to be fully-understood and observed by all shopping centre personnel at all levels. Contact us now to know more about how our team of professional security providers can work with your personnel and prepare them for probable crisis situations.