With the continuing threats brought to us by our AL Quaeda and Taliban enemies and the outbreak of new TV shows that reinforce the danger we all face on a daily basis, one must look within as to how we can protect ourselves from threats both real and imagined. I said imagined because we can become either hypochondriacs or completely oblivious to the dangers around us.
The situations we will focus on in this brief evaluation are those where large volumes of people congregate on a daily basis. Much has been written about airports and how the Government has stepped in to facilitate the security of baggage and boardings etc. Although Schools and theatres could be targeted, one area I would like to review is the Mall, which we have first hand knowledge of since we frequent them almost daily. The mall, some large and some small all handlelarge volumes of people daily. Its close proximity to the airports has caused me to visualize a frightening scenario from time to time. This also should be addressed in any critique of physical protection
Security for malls throughout the country is based on protecting the occupants and the property primarily from fire and water damage.
Personnel are generally given basic information as to what should happen in the case of fire and subsequent damage control, but essentially the function of either Security officers or tenants is to pull the fire alarm and wait for the fire trucks to get there, hopefully as quickly as possible.
Business continuity is a primary situation for the Mall and yet there is little accomplished to meet those requirements. With this in mind a good security officer should be a fireman and or be trained in fire prevention and training. In the world of fire training there are those who are listed as fire police. They are primarily there at the scene of a fire to direct traffic and move gawkers away from danger.
Mall security would seem to fit in this category, as they are not really trained in fire prevention nor fire combating. This exclusion in training on a primary and continual basis is a danger faced by the visitors and businesses that expect protection.
Fire-personal as well as the police, by nature, are trained to meet the demand for medical aid in the event of minor or major medical emergencies. At the least, basic first aid should be a required continual training program for all Mall personnel, with an emphasis on the Security Guard. The fact that defibrillators are available at Malls along with first aid kits but with little or no training approved by the Mall is a condition that should be addressed.
Most security guards are usually hired because they are between jobs, work cheap and don’t ask a lot of questions. Training consists of reading a manual, taking an open book test that consists of :
2. Where the fire equipment is located
3. Reporting problems
4. How to tour the inside and outside of the building and
5. Limits of authority.
It is not the job of the Security Guard to fight fire, provide medical assistance or use force. The primary use of Security personnel is to walk the Mall during the business day and to report from time to time that they have gone into a tenant’s space and shown their presence. Observing possible loss pevention does not appear in their lexicon.
Over the years the defensive tools used by security personnel has been reduced to carrying a set of handcuffs, which can only be used under the direction of a local law enforcement Officer in the completion of his duty. Again, without basic and ongoing training, the uniformed Protective Services officer is of no other use than to be seen. Physical contact with individuals is totally prohibited due to the same reason above. Lack of training creates liability to the Mall and to the officer.
The physical plant known as a Mall has many egresses and entrances. Sets of keys are used by housekeeping, maintenance and protection services to secure the movement throughout the site. In most cases the key systems work as the keys are assigned to individuals and are signed for. Various situations cause damage to the doors, some by the stores themselves and by visiting vendors. Unlawful entrance and egress from the stores occur at all times of the day or night. Doors that are broken and unable to be secured with a key are not repaired in a timely manner. Automatic closing devices are tampered with and are inoperable and in many cases doors are intentionally left open to allow easy access to various parts of the building by not only the Mall employees but many of the store personnel as well. Damaged doors and poor maintenance precludes the hazards to all visitors and employees as well. The ability to enter the building and to cause damage, either unintentionally or inntionally should be of paramount concern to the administration as well as injury to visitors and employees from individuals who may be emotionally, politically or criminally motivated. Daytime situations are normally different than evening and overnight due to the fact that more personnel are available and more activity promotes little opportunity for problematic situations. On one hand this combination of light and sound along with the presence of people creates the environment for terrorism and or criminal acts. During the evening hours there is the added problem produced by teenagers and young adults who create disturbances causing security extra work which distracts them from actual security and placing them in the position of acting as police, which they are not trained for. The use of force has been all but totally removed from their arsenal of protection. No training in civil disturbance or any other disturbance is given on any basis.
Radio communications is used in various ways depending on the requirements of the various departments within the Mall. The benefit is that communications are available to identify negative situations that would require fire, police, housekeeping and maintenance. In the event of an emergency, radio frequencies will be modified to meet the needs of security. Maintenance and housekeeping as well as Mall administration should be subordinate to security. The standard operating procedure would require that the individual in charge be completely cognizant of the workings of the building and at least have the workable phone numbers of department heads. In many situations of various venues, the phone numbers of employ ees are not kept up to date and can cause unnecessary delay not only in emergencies but also on a day to day basis to contact personnel who are due in for shift changes. It should be the responsibility of at least one person in administration to make sure that the phone numbers are kept up to date.
Video surveillance, on the most part, functions well. The worst problem is the lack of light particularly in the parking lot. Often the failure of pole lights creates blackout areas during evening hours. This makes it impossible to check activities from the control center. If there is only one guard on the midnight shift, it requires that the control center may be left unattended to check the lot as well as the entrance and loading doors. video cameras with night vision capabilities would provide the necessary protection of the lot. The inability to patrol and or visually observe the site have created criminal acts from break-ins,vandalism and murder. Using the parking lot or a lover’s lane cannot be tolerated.
Without listing banal conclusions to these initial thoughts, lets recognize the need to be aware of that, which surrounds us. Remember, God is in the details!
With 8 years of service in the Military Police and former investigator for the State of NY election fraud bureau, a retired private and insurance investigator and presently actiove in the field of security. Member of the Police Commissioner’s Association of Connecticut, International Foundation of Protection Officers.