As the 2013 festive season fast approaches, and malls across the country experience higher foot traffic, so too do many operational demands to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all shoppers.
Chief among these is security and the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) says shopping centres are now gearing up for increased safety precautions for the festive season.
Amanda Stops, CEO of the SACSC, says: “Firearm attacks in shopping centres are an unfortunate global concern, with incidents occurring in the United States, Canada, Finland, and most recently in Kenya. In placing every aspect of safety and security as a top priority, management at South Africa malls strive to follow best international practice in dealing with any security risk, including the possibility of a firearm attack.”
Stops explains that essential preparations for each mall includes liaising closely their nearest police station to establish details of how police would respond to an incident. Having detailed centre floor and layout plans enable centre management to aid police, staff and shoppers in the event of an incident. Floor plans can include information on potential evacuation points, location of first aid boxes and safe areas that would provide cover and protection from gunfire.
“Best practice dictates that, in the event of a firearm attack, shopping centre management’s first response will be to alert the police and other relevant emergency services,” says Stops. The next step is evacuation. “Centre staff should not try to challenge an attacker, but aim to evacuate the immediate area as safely as possible without causing panic.”
The shopping centre control room plays a vital role in ensuring a potential incident is monitored effectively through the use of CCTV footage, keeping a detailed log of events, as well as use of the centre’s PA system to alert shops to cease trading.
Stops notes that retailer staff should lock themselves and customers in safe areas, such as storerooms, until police have the situation under control.
Once police arrive, centre management and security will aid in providing officers with necessary details of the incident as well as which service areas and corridors are available for police to efficiently gain control of the situation.
Staff and shoppers would be advised to remain as calm as possible, and follow all police instructions until all areas of the shopping centre are deemed safe and police have gathered all necessary evidence.
Once the immediate danger has ceased, centre management plays an important role in passing on possible evidence to police and once cleared to do so, any damage would be repaired. Centre management may also offer counselling to security officers and staff directly involved in the incident.
“Shopping centres begin preparations for the busy festive season many months in advance,” says Stops. “Effective safety and security procedures are just one of the many considerations undertaken by centre management to guarantee shopper safety and enjoyment.”