Shopping centres are high-traffic, densely populated places with a multitude of security concerns. With over 16 million people from varying demographics and backgrounds congregating in shopping centres daily, security and safety, not just for clients and patrons, but for shopping centre personnel, staff and contractors can become a nightmare to plan and implement.
When planning and implementing a safety and security management plan for shopping centres, it is important to identify the major concerns and issues that a shopping centre is expected to face in its daily operations.
Easily among the most common security concerns of a shopping centre is theft. With the bulk of its contractors in the retail business, petty thieves and even larger groups of organized looters are always a constant threat. The retail sector estimates that losses due to theft may exceed $1 billion every year, and while this security breach can never be 100% prevented, identifying the most common avenues of theft and implementing effective security measures for early detection, apprehension of perpetrators and recovery of stolen goods will go a long way towards curtailing losses in income, livelihood and even lives.
The Westgate Mall incident of 2013 that left over 60 people dead and more than a hundred injured captured the world’s attention and made one thing clear: shopping malls are vulnerable, ideal targets for terror attacks. Later incidents, such as the attacks in Colombia, Munich and Stockholm, again emphasized the vulnerability of shopping centres and the people in and around them. These attacks also highlighted the difficulty in anticipating such attacks, which can be carried out from almost anywhere using almost anything from guns, to improvised explosive devices, and even suicide vehicles.
While security and safety measures in and around shopping centres can be enhanced to deter such events, early detection and prevention of mass casualties and destruction of property brought about by terror attacks hinges on a larger effort that involves not only the local, regional and national security and police forces, but also the vigilance of every member of the community.
While most personal disputes that occur inside a shopping centre can be de-escalated by proper intervention from store personnel, some of these confrontations can turn physical, and sometimes even deadly. The crowded, busy environment of a shopping centre can become an ideal camouflage for the intent of unsavoury individuals to harm other unsuspecting people or kidnap them for ransom. These malicious activities can be easily hidden from security personnel unless measures are undertaken to specifically monitor for, deter and intervene in such activities.
The crowded environment of a shopping centre, together with the numerous distractions that confront the human senses in and around it means that people – especially children – can easily go missing when the caretaker’s or parents’ attention fluctuates. This makes an extensive surveillance and search system an important consideration when planning security and safety protocols. Another consideration is to designate areas of the shopping centre as child-protection or child “drop-off” zones, where the shopping centre management can automatically send any children found without guardians and direct their caregivers accordingly.
While most true medical emergencies occur as a result of other incidents like terror attacks, fires or natural disasters, some medical conditions require shopping centre personnel to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to potentially save lives or reduce morbidity from pain. In particular, heart attack, which is the leading cause of non-traumatic death requires quick response, early CPR and access to advanced medical care to increase the probability of survival. Another event that occurs inside shopping centres that may need medical attention or first aid is fall, both accidental (usually elderly falls) and intentional (suicide “jumper”).
Safety regulations that ensure buildings for commercial use are of the appropriate design, construction and with the right safeguards means that fires and other engineering hazards, like structural collapse, power failures and gas leaks are a relatively rare occurrence. However, these unfortunate events can still occur, and should still be included in the consideration for safety and security planning, personnel training and management. Aspects such as crowd control, evacuation, damage control and immediate medical assistance need to be factored in to the implementation of security and safety strategies.
Security and safety planning for natural disasters can be closely linked with measures that cover fire and engineering hazards, as these “outbursts of mother nature” – like tornadoes, earthquakes and flash floods – can have a direct impact on the integrity of the shopping centre’s structure itself and cause engineering failures.
As shopping centre management, you should always be a step ahead in providing security and safety to your shoppers. Being familiar with and having a clear understanding of the possible threats to your establishment will allow you to prepare and implement necessary measures to be able to handle these situations in case you encounter them.
We at Prosek Security have a deep understanding of the retail industry and its security needs. Get in touch with our team of security experts to know more about how we can help you and your personnel prepare for these security concerns and prevent or minimize the damages they may cause.