With emerging threats to large public areas comes a new training program designed to prepare the security officers at our nation’s shopping malls for any potential terrorist threat, a needed and important step.
Ever since the events of 9/11, security personnel have worked to identify the most likely targets for additional terrorist attacks, and virtually every report on the issue shows shopping malls on critical infrastructure lists of soft targets. This is precisely why the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and George Washington University as well as key figures from the shopping center security industry formulated a training program specifically developed for potential terrorist attacks. The result is the first standardized anti-terrorism curriculum written for the nation’s retail security guards.
THE FOCUSScott Born, vice president of corporate relations with Valor Security and a member of the ICSC’s Subcommittee on Security Issues, has been involved in the review and recommendation of new security measures in the industry. He said the fact that malls are possible terrorist targets and continue to be social and financial centers within communities are key reasons for creating this training program. And he felt the method used to develop the program makes it an even more valuable training tool.
“We feel like it’s a unique collaborative effort,” Born said. “ICSC is a trade organization and the people who are its members have a keen perspective on this issue and are experts on shopping center security. This puts us in a great position to contribute meaningful ideas and provide industry perspective for this program.”
The focus of the $1.8 million program is training shopping center security officers to enhance terrorism awareness. The program enhances the learning experience by leveraging a blended learning process with scenario gaming and short video presentations conducted in the shopping environment. The initiative seeks to train up to 20,000 security officers from across the country in terrorism awareness and deterrence of the range of possible threats.
INDISPENSABLE INPUTBorn also noted the advantages of including a diverse group of participants in the development of the program. “The process brought together end-users and vendors that would have traditionally been competitors. We were able to network and brainstorm on security measures, apply real-world applications to the planning to insure its effectiveness and lend support and staff for the final program development. The fact that so many of the industry’s security professionals were involved in the program’s development gives us confidence that it will be a tool the officers will embrace and employ,” Born said.
It was also important to provide input regarding the operational setting to make the program reflective of the environment faced by the officers in the field. Severn Call, vice president of training and operations development for Valor, was a part of the team that worked with ICSC/GWU on this project. He reviewed and provided input for some of the program’s sections and assisted in the taping of a number of the videos included in the program.
Call said the point of all of the input was to be certain the training was real world in its presentation and its recommendations. “Training in terrorism awareness has been a point of emphasis...and the rest of the participating members of the sub-committee were able to add practical information and assessment, such as insights into how a mall site operates as well as suggestions for visual representations so it would be easily recognized.”
THE IMPLEMENTATIONBorn said that the new program, once implemented, will be a valuable part of overall offerings. “Combined with certification from the Department of Homeland Security under the SAFETY Act, this program provides benefits and added security for our customers, for mall shoppers and employees as we head-off and respond to the threat of terrorism.”
The program will be tested in several malls around the country. There is also an overall national program test. After that test period, which should last several months, and review by the ICSC and GWU, the program should be extended more broadly to malls throughout the country.