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Shopping in Safety

How is a facility that receives hundreds of people on any given day prepared for an eventual emergency?

As security managers/officers, we have the implied task of properly addressing and acting on emergencies when they strike. Emergency preparation and management form part of our security roles and responsibilities. For a typical mall setting, emergency preparation may consist of the following phases: groundwork, training, and post operation.

The Road to Preparation

Part of this phase is monitoring weather conditions, as the rainy season approaches. PAGASA weather data would always be helpful and can be acquired from the Internet. But to closely monitor the weather and news on a timely basis, a transistor radio would do. It is also important to have a demographic data of the area where the facility is located. The demographic data may include, but is not limited to the following:

In the Event of…

Responding means taking appropriate actions to address the ongoing emergency; the keyword being “appropriate.” It is important to have a good grasp of the scenario for the correct action to be undertaken.   In responding to an emergency, it is important that every player is aware of the step-by-step procedures for various emergencies that may occur. In the same manner, since the personnel are organized, it is also important that each organized team knows exactly what to do. Someone should be in charge of crowd control, evacuation, and/or rescue operations when needed.

Critical in responding to the emergency is the amount of time it will take the responders to reach the scene. It is not easy to pull together the team members since these personnel are assigned to different areas of the facility. Only through an efficient radio communication network can this weakness be eliminated or minimized.

In emergencies, responders should always see to it that the safety of the personnel or employees is foremost versus the other valuable materials in the facility. Employees who know how to respond to specific emergencies will certainly be less labor for the responders or rescue workers.  The less time they spend on the mall’s personnel, the more time they have on the customers or the clients that are present in the facility.

When the Smoke Clears

The ability of the organization to recover and return to operation is paramount. There are cases where, due to the effect of an emergency, the company finds it hard to return to normal operations. It affects not only the business but the welfare of the employees that are affected with the disruption of normal operations of the company. The faster the company can return to normal operations, the better it could project a well-prepared emergency response.

Post operations would also require damage assessment or inventory of items that have been lost or become inoperable. If there are concerns regarding health or death of employees, it is also critical to address this immediately to prevent future problems that may arise.

Emergency preparation is of prime importance to every organization or institution. In many cases, the readiness or preparedness of the concerned tasked personnel or   unit/department to preempt or attend to the emergency is vital in business continuity. As concerned emergency responders are not usually fully equipped with all the sophisticated tools and equipment (since they are not really rescue units), having some basic tools and skills in emergency response will be a big factor in at least safeguarding the personnel as well as clients of the company.

Emergency preparation should be a continuous skills/training process that prepares the personnel—not just the security detail—on how to be safe for a specific emergency, tells them what to do if an emergency strikes, and gauges if they are capable of responding to others affected by the emergency without jeopardizing a person’s safety.