Two days after yet another tragic mall incident, authorities still report they had no idea what led Darion Marcus Aguilar, a 19 year-old male, to violently kill two people and then himself at The Mall in Columbia. There also seemed to be ongoing concern over the fact his plan appeared so simple that it only required a backpack and cab fare.
Why do these events continue to occur and seem to be from such unsuspecting people? Is there something that can be done to eliminate mall violence? While a wonderful thought, probably not a reality, at least not in the short-term. So what can be done by mall owners and managers to protect those who visit and work at their locations? Should they require visitors to go through airport-level security to buy a new outfit or a piece of jewelry? And who would bear that cost?
According to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), in 2012 there were almost 113,000 shopping centers operating in the United States. Undertaking widespread security upgrades would be cost-prohibitive and, even then, unlikely to protect against all types of violence. So what can be done?
First, malls can make sure they have an emergency preparedness plan or emergency action plan. This will help malls make sure they are prepared if there is a crisis at their location. And although owners can’t anticipate what will happen or when, they can address the most probable scenarios and be ready to respond quickly when it does.
Second, shopping centers and malls can have a mass notification system in place that is updated continually and tested regularly. An emergency notification system enables the mall to efficiently notify all their tenants and mall staff in a matter of minutes — regardless of what time of day it is. Mass notifications systems like RedFlag that employ today’s current technologies enable property managers or owners to send a single message and have it distributed by email, text, and voice call. So an assistant manager who was out working with customers and took refuge in a storage room can be updated by text. At the same time, a store manager who has the day off can be alerted by voice call so they can take appropriate action as well.
Lastly, malls can make sure their staff and tenants know what to expect during a crisis. Making sure tenants are familiar with the mall’s emergency action plan and what they are expected to do in the case of an emergency will help ensure visitors and employees take the best action to protect themselves and others.