shopping center escalator

How to Become an Expert in Shopping Center Security Management

As part of the day-to-day operations of a shopping centre, the security program and services for the property should be specifically designed to protect the asset, the customers, and the tenants. In saying that, any security program once created should be reviewed regularly to identify any changes to the property, the customer factors, and the tenancy mix.


Safety and security are significant issues in shopping center performance; they impact customer visits, trade, and ultimately the rental paid in the property for occupancy.  (NB – you can get our free training on shopping center management and leasing right here)


That security assessment requires a specific plan of approach that can take into account the operational procedures for the shopping centre. That specific security assessment can be refined over time subject to the seasonal shopping patterns, the property design, and the pressures of occupancy, maintenance activities, and building usage. The assessment should always occur prior to the beginning of every financial year as part of establishing and refining the building business plan and financial budget together with the various expenditure pressures expected for the forthcoming year.


Retail Property Design Considerations


To successfully structure a security review of a retail shopping centre, many of the daily operational factors need to be fully understood, and the design factors of the asset will also come into consideration.  In looking at the design factors, understand how people arrive and the property (car, taxi, public transport, and walking), then look at how they move into and through the property.


So why does this need to be carefully considered so regularly? The tenants and the customers in any retail property will always create security pressures and occupancy issues. Injuries will occur.


The larger the shopping centre, the more complex the issues when it comes to security and public safety.   The shopping center manager and the property management team must control and support both the public and tenants as they use and occupy the property.


A Full Security Review in a Shopping Center


Here are some ideas to help you review the security program for a retail shopping centre today:


  1. Understand the operational hours of the retail property across a typical trading week and at different times of year. It is likely that those hours will extend into the evening with some of the tenants trading extended hours. Do an assessment of the tenancy mix and the permitted shopping hours of each particular property lease.
  2. Review the property and all of the zones therein associated with transport, car parking, public thoroughfare, shop usage, tenant occupancy, and the common areas. When you look at the different zones, consider things such as lighting, safety, maintenance activities, property presentation, and access.
  3. Services and amenities in the property are important and should also feature in your assessment. Are those services and amenities safe and functional to the expectations of tenants and customers?
  4. Contractors will bring risk situations to the property as they perform maintenance. Look at the maintenance routines and timetables to see where the contractors deployed in your property can and will create risky situations and perhaps a security event.  Look at how they enter the property and undertake their required tasks.  Can certain controls be applied to the regular maintenance routines?
  5. Review the tenancy mix to understand the types and volumes of shop customers that the tenants are likely to attract to the property. Some customers create problems for a retail property at different times of the day and particularly after hours. For example, an entertainment precinct within the shopping centre is likely to trade at extended hours after the normal shops close; they may attract customers of different age groups and demographics. In such cases you may need a specific security service or patrol to maintain safe situations for the public in those special zones of the property.
  6. Create a list of emergency contact people for each tenant, so you know who you will be connecting with at the right time when an emergency situation is underway.
  7. Consider the emergency response plan for the property currently, and just how people may be evacuated effectively and efficiently in cases of fire, personal injury, bomb threat, earthquake, and any other predictable event. The emergency response plan should be checked for its effectiveness given the property and its design, together with the tenants and their staff, and the volumes of customers accessing the property and shops each day. There can also be seasonal changes to look at and assess as part of reviewing the emergency response plan.
  8. Undertake a risk assessment of the property with the building insurers. This should happen at least six monthly as part of the emergency and security review. Take into account the special building areas of car park, plant and equipment zones, landscaping, roads and walkways, loading docks, tenant storage, goods entry, public transport, and public access generally.  Look at signage and lighting in all areas of the property to ensure that people are safe or can be kept away from areas that are restricted and dangerous.
  9. Identify the key people in the shopping centre management team who will be involved with and control any emergency response. Have they got the correct and the appropriate training to assist in times of emergency and security? Assess the team for all types of risk events and possibilities.  Look at the response processes and record keeping methods.
  10. In any retail property there will be frequently occurring issues of public safety and risk. There needs to be some comprehensive record maintained of those risk and safety related events, and a further log of the responses undertaken. Log books, cameras, response teams, and signage will all be of benefit.
  11. Understand how the emergency response services for your town or city would access and integrate into your shopping centre in times of public injury, duress, or disaster. Look at a worst-case scenario and structure your security and emergency response strategies given all of the possible variations of threat, damage, and risk.
  12. Review the positioning of security devices such as cameras, emergency response points, emergency signage, the concierge desk, the centre management office, the security room, lighting, and the entrances and exits to and from the property. Look at how people will move into and through the property under an emergency or security situation. Can the emergency services access the key people in the centre management team easily and effectively?
  13. Establish a crisis management plan for the asset incorporating factors of security with any situation of duress that you can predict for the property. The crisis management plan will need to handle the special factors such as the media, the tenants, the general public, and injured people or personnel.

So the list doesn’t stop here.  There are other things that you can add to the list based on your property, its design, the community, and the location.    A comprehensive approach to shopping center security is required on an annual basis.

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