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Pedestrian entrances as “barriers”: Routines should be in place to screen visitors, staff, and tenants at all entrances and, if needed, to screen hand baggage. Image: Citycon

In the name of security

As a response to past years’ incidents and to meet the rapid changes of risks that are affecting the industry’s security landscape, the Nordic Council of Shopping Centers (NCSC) recently released a “Guide to Shopping Center Risk and Security”.

Marika Waern, Managing Director NCSC. Image: NCSC

“The NCSC are working actively to support the shopping center industry with initiatives to make shopping centers safe for visitors, staff, as well as investors,” says Marika Waern, Managing Director at NCSC.

This is why the “Guide to Shopping Center Risk and Security” was developed by Citycon in collaboration with Safe ShoppingCenters. Its aim is to assist, give guidance and provide knowledge of the basic risk and security management needs which should be in place in malls.

The guide comprises three cornerstones: Proactive risk assessment and managing risks, competence and awareness, and compliance follow-up. Shopping center organizations need to adhere to these three cornerstones, decide how to implement them, which tools to use to prevent incidents, and how to create safe and secure mall environments to ensure safe retail destinations.

Disconnect between investor and operational management

Investors, owners, and operators are responsible for managing security risks. Although they can see that a new risk landscape is emerging, it is often difficult for them to define what’s behind the changes or how they should respond to them.

Risk management of malls is increasingly relevant to investors. As the financial world imposes ever greater requirements on institutions, strategic leadership assumes risk management, if it is not already in place at an operational level.

It is common for there to be disconnect between investors’ expectations and operational practice. This is largely due to the structure through which valuable assets are held. The investment community is correctly focused on identifying risk and mitigating it wherever possible.

Shopping center management is typically directed to prioritize maximizing net operating income. Security and operational level risk management is rarely a high priority within management because it is perceived as not affecting the bottom line. This disconnect between the objectives of the investor and those of operational management needs to be addressed. The way to address it is for investors to insist that risk management is prioritized at the operational level.

Sometimes it is only when avoidable risks come to the attention of owners or strategic management, and it is realized the risk could have been mitigated, that owners see that risk management is not adequately prioritized within the operational structure.

High threat

In its eighth chapter, the guide finally explores the hot topic of “high threat”. It emphasizes that that managements need to conduct risk and vulnerability assessments specific to each mall and the local environment in order to identify practical proactive security measures.

Routines should be in place to screen visitors, staff, and tenants at all entrances and, if needed, to screen hand baggage. As a last resort, this is a significant deterrent that can be a suitable proactive security measure at a time when the threat level is at its highest. Operators have to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place for each individual shopping center.

The use of firearms and weapons is still infrequent, but it is important to consider it and be prepared to cope with such an incident. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Because of this, individuals must be prepared to deal with these situations before law enforcement personnel arrives on the scene.

This is a difficult planning process and it requires the cooperation of retailers to establish procedures, which are ideally incorporated into the leasing contracts, to better regulate liability issues. It is recommended to set up an information and awareness training campaign and develop a basic strategy with hands-on actions on what retailers should do.

Image: Citycon

CCTV also for identifying planning activities

The guide also deals with the subject of suicide attacks. Suicide bombers may use a truck, car or any other kind of vehicle as a bomb, or may carry or conceal explosives on their bodies. A recommended countermeasure is to use physical barriers to prevent a hostile vehicle from driving into the mall through goods/service and pedestrian entrances or shop fronts.

Furthermore, an effective CCTV (closed circuit television) system may deter thieves, robbers or a terrorist attack, or even identify planning activity. Good quality images can provide crucial evidence in court.

Erik Engstrand, CEO and Founder of Safe ShoppingCenters, summarizes the situation: “Increasing threat levels and greater corporate responsibility are raising risk and security up to the investors’ agendas. Owners of retail assets need to take a proactive approach to risk management. Forward-thinking owners and early adopters are applying standard-based processes and procedures, tailored to address the emerging risks and challenges ahead of us. Security used to be left to authorities. Now retailers expect mall managers to apply industry standards. It’s time to take responsibility for ensuring a safe and secure shopping environment.”

Example of routines and action plans for high threat procedures

  • Limiting access to the center entrances, exits, roads, parking spaces
  • Closing off public transportation to the center
  • Enhanced control at loading bay areas, or routines for closing off bay areas
  • Secondary points of delivery for all suppliers away from the center, and a temporary storage facility
  • Check and controls of all common areas including routines for subcontractors with guest services, security, maintenance, or housekeeping performing checks
  • Guard company actions and alerts and hiring additional security staff
  • Security checks for staff and subcontractors, and identity verification
  • Tenants checking their premises for hidden objects or persons
  • Routines for cooperation/communication with the police and other authorities
  • Ensuring that radio procedures and back up communication plans are available and working



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